I just celebrated my fourth wedding anniversary with the most incredible woman. When our relationship began six years ago, I knew that she was the woman that I had spent a lifetime looking for. I knew from that moment, and so did she.
As wonderful as that relationship was, as committed to each other as we became; nothing compared to that day in June when we became husband and wife. The simple act of giving ourselves to each other before 300 of our family and friends changed things. When we walked back up that isle to sign our wedding license, we began an incredible journey that has only gotten better with time. We love being married; it is the greatest gift we have been able to give to each other.
The one blemish in my own wedded bliss has been to see people whom I know and love, as well as millions of others, denied the same right in their own relationships, because of sexual orientation. I find it difficult to enjoy my own marriage without feeling some responsibility to stand up for the rights of everyone to enjoy the same benefits of marriage that I do. In an effort to make some kind of statement, I have carried a sticker on my camera bag for these past four years that says, “We ALL Deserve the FREEDOM TO MARRY.” I believe that if I am to enjoy my own freedom to marry, I must stand up to defend the rights of others to do the same. The sticker makes me feel good; but now the time has come to act.
In all honesty, I must state that I see no difference between a straight and a gay relationship to begin with, and I celebrate any couple who find mutual love. You do not have to share that viewpoint in order to agree to the fundamental question of equal rights for all. Regardless of how you may feel about gay or lesbian relationships, if you fully appreciate the joy that your right to marriage brings to you, you have to ask yourself if you have the right to deny the same right to others.
I don’t have to go back too far in history to find a time that Analuisa and I would have had a difficult time finding a church that would marry us because she is Mexican and I am white. It would be wrong to deny any couple, who desire the sanctity of marriage because of their race or religion, and it would be wrong to do so because of their sexual orientation. I am proud to belong to a church that shares this belief, and a congregation who are also committed to stopping Measure 8 in November. This is simply a question of equal rights for all, fortunately the California courts have confirmed this, and as a result wedding bells have been ringing steadily for same sex marriages in most parts of California for the past month.
There is an effort to strip the right to marriage from couples in the gay and lesbian community. The initiative to pass a constitutional amendment, intended to ban marriage for same-sex couples in California, has qualified for the November ballot. The initiative attempts to amend the California constitution to only recognize marriages “between a man and a woman.”
I believe that it is important for happily married couples to stand up and declare that we do not have any exclusive rights to the sacred right to marry. I believe that we have a responsibility to stand up and join the No on Measure 8 campaign (sign up to volunteer at http://www.equalityforall.com), working together to support the right of any couple who want to share their lives together, through the bond of marriage. I will volunteer for my first shift phone banking for No on Measure 8 this week, and I encourage you to do the same. I see it as an opportunity to honor my own marriage, reflect on just how much joy it brings to me, and to stand up for what’s right. Please join the No on Measure 8 campaign now, so that we can protect the right to marry in November.
Mark Coplan is a Berkeley resident and a Deacon at St. John’s Presbyterian Church