- January 9, 2014
Post submitted by Guy S. Johnson, guest contributor. Johnson is a 2014 Master of Divinity Candidate at the Lancaster Theological Seminary. A graduate of Dominican University in River Forest, IL, Guy and his partner reside in Northern Virginia where they have no children, no pets, but an outstanding Santa collection.
My partner of more than eight years and I live, by car, five and three-tenths miles from the state of Maryland, where marriage equality is a reality. As the crow flies, we’re under two miles distance from a state where we belong to each other, in the eyes of the law and in many churches. In Maryland, we are not legal strangers – we have an official status.
However, we live in Virginia, a wonderful place to live. But in our adopted state, there are people who don’t believe our relationship should be legally recognized. We are invisible citizens, except when it comes to taxation and school bond issues. We are not considered a family.
I understand we don’t look like a traditional family. We are opposites in almost every imaginable category. He’s Caucasian, 18 years older than me, and reserved, while I’m a 40-plus African American who has never met a stranger. He’s Roman Catholic and I am Protestant. I love improvisational jazz, and he’d rather stab himself in the ear with dull chopsticks than sit through another concert by my favorite male jazz singer. We share a couple of things – love of good wine, a fantastic dinner, musical theater. When people see us, I am sure they think “What an unusual couple!”
And we are unusual. We’re a couple who has been through good times and bad times, and in the words of Sondheim, “still here.” We have laughed, cried, argued, ignored, and inspired each other, often in the same conversation at dinner. He understands my need to be a social butterfly, and I understand his need for quiet after dealing with 100 children all day.
However, the Commonwealth of Virginia denies us the right to legally marry.
There is a religious implication for many people when they hear the word “marriage.” I get that. Because of my religious background, I once held the same views, and thought I would be happy with a “civil union”. But we should not have to live in a “separate but equal” world. As has been shown throughout history, separate but equal ultimately leads to “separate and unequal”.
Marriage in the United States is a civil matter. You must register at the local courthouse to legalize your marriage. When you deny a group of people that right, that’s discrimination. Another couple that looks like us got the right to wed legally in 1967 – The Lovings - and they were denied the right based on arbitrary criteria: race. Denying individuals the right to marry whom they love is the wrong side of history.