How <em>Obergefell</em> Taught Me Marriage Is Far More Than A Piece Of Paper

How Obergefell Taught Me Marriage Is Far More Than A Piece Of Paper

Gay marriage changed me. I found purpose and connection unlike anything I ever knew before. Can’t this coexist with religious Americans’ rights?
Chad Felix Greene
By

It’s been a year since I found myself standing in unexpectedly freezing weather, Jacob shaking next to me—not from butterflies, but from the sharp wind. I held him a little closer to keep him warm.

It was our wedding day, and nothing had gone according to plan. My family shivered as the minister shouted above the wind and the buses passing next to the public library across from the courthouse. It was chaotic and absurd, but looking into the eyes of Jacob and seeing as much anticipation and calm confidence as I felt, it all seemed perfect.

It was the celebration of everyone in my life that really became a shining memory of that precious moment. From my friends at home to my coworkers shocked and playfully indignant I had not invited them, to the dozens and dozens of happy greetings from people I interact with nearly every day online, the public celebration of our moment was breathtaking. It is staggering to experience love and I was, simply and gratefully, overwhelmed.

Soon life with Jacob became a beautifully simple series of mundane activities and cozy lounging with our cats while watching TV. Each Sunday we drove to the pet store, played with the puppies, and enjoyed a local breakfast venue famous in our area. As spring warmed up the yard, we were soon consumed with planting flowers, designing a patio, and planning to bring a puppy into our new family. I found purpose and connection unlike anything I ever knew before. Marriage changed me.

Before the Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015, which found states limiting marriage to one man and one woman violated the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, I was fairly conservative on the topic. I did not oppose same-sex marriage, but I was more or less content with letting individual states do as they pleased on the issue. I opposed the federal government either banning this policy or imposing it onto the states.

But once the decision came down and gay couples began getting married across the country, I accepted that sometimes progressives bully their way through and there are simply more important priorities to focus on. For me the fight came down to ensuring those with religious beliefs opposing same-sex relationships were not forced to participate in same-sex weddings. It became important to me that creating a new legal right did not infringe on the rights of others.

Obergefell Didn’t Settle Things for Many Americans

I waved away concerns from LGBT media that GOP control would mean losing the ability to marry. Then I saw two state GOP legislators propose doing exactly that.

Kansas Republicans introduced House Bill 2320, which essentially argues current LGBTQ political action is an aspect of secular humanism, which it reasons is a religion. By requiring the states to recognize same-sex marriage, they argue the federal government is imposing religious standards onto the people of the state, many of whom do not wish their tax dollars to benefit “parody marriages.”

After admitting the bill’s language was “harsh,” bill sponsor and state Rep. Randy Garber said, “Their marriage probably doesn’t affect me — their union or whatever you want to call it. But in my opinion, they’re trying to force their beliefs on society.”

Tennessee also re-introduced the Natural Marriage Defense Act, which would prevent same-sex marriages from being issued or recognized in the state. The purpose of the bill would be to intentionally challenge Obergefell through a series of appeals and, hopefully, take the matter before the Supreme Court for another ruling.

In 2015, the first Natural Marriage Defense Act was opposed by Tennessee’s Republican governor and attorney general. In 2018 the bill, HB0892, failed. The most recent version of the bill, HB1369, has one sponsor, state Rep. Jerry Sexton (R). The latest action on it has been assigning the bill to the Children and Family Subcommittee.

The Kansas bill, HB2320, currently has seven Republican state sponsors and has been referred to the judiciary committee. Although neither bill may go very far, they have validated many fears the LGBT left proposed would become reality if Republicans won the presidency, took the House and Senate, and confirmed conservative Supreme Court justices.

A Battle of Worries and Woes

Certainly, one of the right’s fears prior to Obergefell was that legally recognizing same-sex relationships would usher in ever-growing demands and boundary-pushing. Subsequent happenings such as the public celebration of Desmond Napoles, an 11-year-old drag queen, have alarmed parents and those interested in protecting children from sexual exploitation. There is a strong desire to take back our culture from the left’s excesses and dangerous social experimentation following Obergefell.

But I hope to offer another view. Since embracing my conservative views, I have stood up for Christians and other religious groups defending their traditions and beliefs, and I understand the significance marriage has in the traditional religious worldview. Yet I also wonder if those who view marriage as a good for society also see the good it has offered myself and Jacob.

This is a two-way agreement, as those on the right recognize the current vindictive targeting and harassment of religious business owners and other private services by LGBT advocacy creates resentment and does significant harm. In this we stand with you, as our inclusion in this institution should never restrict others’ religious freedom.

Marriage Is More than a Piece of Paper

Marriage has become more to me than simply a set of legal protections. My husband was able to emigrate here due to the federal recognition of our marriage. While simple things like health insurance and filling out our taxes have a special sense of security associated with them, people also engage with you differently in society after you are married.

Marriage has been a profound experience for me, as the connection to this other person is far deeper than I ever felt while dating.

Marriage has been a profound experience for me, as the connection to this other person is far deeper than I ever felt while dating. A decade of casual sex, loneliness, and believing myself “not marriage material” evaporated shockingly fast, and I found peace and security I had never known before. It is more than sharing my life, sharing a home, and sharing bills. It has allowed us to integrate into normal America and experience equality in its most tangible form. It saved my life in a way that is difficult to fully appreciate.

For me and countless others like me, marriage has accomplished exactly what traditional conservatives argue it would for all of society. As of 2017, 61 percent of same-sex couples are married, an increase from 38 percent prior to Obergefell. A Pew survey in 2013 found 49 percent of LGBT people believe the best way to obtain acceptance and equality in society is through marriage.

Today I find this union precious, and I am grateful to experience it. Rather than “redefining” marriage, my husband and I were simply allowed to enjoy the personal and social benefits it offers. This alone is one of the goals of the social conservative movement in spirit.

People Who Think Differently Can Live Together

As a conservative, I believe we have a unified duty to protect and defend religious freedom, and no person should be forced to participate in any activity he or she morally opposes. I believe that marriage is itself a social good that builds civilization and develops peace, prosperity, and social unity in a unique way.

To defend all of our rights, we must stand together.

I hope those who agree would recognize the value in welcoming gay couples to help build that society. I stand with Christians and other conservative religious groups, as well as social conservatives in defending our culture from progressive domination, but I also hope to introduce the idea that my husband and I, as so many other conservative gay married couples, are not a part of those efforts at vindictively punishing their beliefs.

To repair society, we need unity and an appreciation of community, even if we disagree on the details. To fight the progressive takeover of our country, we must recognize mutually beneficial freedom and liberty and understand that our natural diversity is simply a consequence of that freedom. To defend all of our rights, we must stand together. I do not ask anyone to recognize my marriage personally, but we have an opportunity to amicably agree to disagree.

These bills, in my view, unnecessarily divide us and will not accomplish what the well-meaning legislators hope. Instead I ask them to see the benefit of conservative values in gay lives all across the country and perhaps reach out a hand so we can help them take on battles we can both agree deserve our passion. You don’t need to call Jacob my husband to call me a friend, but I would still like to share our happiness with you, and I hope you feel the same.

Chad Felix Greene is a senior contributor to The Federalist. He is the author of the "Reasonably Gay: Essays and Arguments" series and is a social writer focusing on truth in media, conservative ideas and goals, and true equality under the law. You can follow him on Twitter @chadfelixg.

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