Minnesotans United for All Families has made the meaning and importance of marriage for all people the centerpiece of its message against the Republican anti-marriage amendment. This is a very good thing. No more hiding, no more mincing words, no more “but we already have a law against same-sex marriage.” Clearly and unequivocally, the campaign against the amendment takes the campaign directly to the hearts and minds of Minnesotans. As Sen. Scott Dibble said at the DFL State Convention this weekend, the campaign wants you to ask your friends and family “what does marriage mean to you?”
This weekend, my partner Jen and I will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. We tried to express what marriage means to us in the vows we wrote for each other, and for the community of people who gathered with us that day in Pomona, Illinois. I share it with you today in the hopes that you’ll take this conversation out there, to your friends and family, as we join in making Minnesota the first state to reject an amendment like this one.
And happy anniversary, Jen.
Jen: So here we are, on the verge of “tying the knot,” “getting hitched,” “clipping our wings,” becoming “tied down,” “taking the plunge” and attaching ourselves to the old “ball and chain.” We’ve “captured” each other’s hearts (or, as the less subtle metaphor goes, we’ve finally “caught” a husband/wife) and we’re about to “bind” ourselves to the marriage contract. No more freedom, lots of odious responsibility, including but not limited to, the obligation to produce offspring, me in the kitchen, Aaron in front of the t.v., leading safe, predictable, pre-fabricated lives. Sounds great, doesn’t it? As the old joke goes, “Marriage is a great institution, but who wants to be in an institution?”
We want nothing to do with traditional notions of the institution of marriage, an institution that has meant onerous duty, a loss of freedom, a destruction of individuality, a thoughtless adherence to traditional roles for men and women that ensures that two people really will feel like they are from different planets, and an exclusion of the wide variety of human affection, some of which happens between men and women but also happens between and among men and men, women and women.
Aaron: We want to signify a different kind of commitment – committing with abandon to a new role, to be so committed to a person, a connection, an idea that one is not trapped by it, but freed to play with and inside the commitment. A mutual commitment, made durable by its flexibility, made simple through its complexity, and made unifying through its uniqueness. Our desire to signify this relationship is both enabled and frustrated by our reliance on language – “every meaning has a word that never fits.” Nonetheless, we’ve chosen our words carefully, for they are our only way of connecting you to what act we commit, and commit ourselves to, today.
A: A constructive act, one that is always-building new meaning, rather than always-shoring up old meanings.
J: An artistic act, one that is always-expanding the ways in which human beings live, rather that always-contracting, searching for one perfect way to live.
A: A social act, one that is always-connecting to all community life, rather than always-segregating from the totality of human experience.
J: A political act, one that is always-defining our stance toward the act of two people traveling together, rather than always-assuming the ways of other must be our ways, too.
A: An act where words chosen become actions building new lives, where the act of commitment expresses how we’ve chosen to live, rather than the words, lives, and commitments of others.
J: An act, in other words, of love freely given.
A: We come together now, at the confluence of Spring and Summer, near the confluence of the great Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, initiating a confluence of the human communities that have nurtured us throughout our lives. We know the universe as Walt did, “as a road, as many roads, as roads for traveling souls.” At this intersection, at this confluence, we pause in celebration as our roads intertwine. We celebrate the people who have traveled with us – our families, and especially our parents who are with us today, our communities of friends from Southern Illinois and across the country who’ve gathered here today, and we celebrate the natural community we’re surrounded by today. As roads emerge, diverge and cross, we move to new places, and today we celebrate the mingling of these people, these communities and this place. We are truly blessed by your presence with us.
“We Two, How Long We were Fool’d” by Walt Whitman
Performed with Loved Ones
Jen: We two, how long we were fool’d
Aaron: Now transmuted, we swiftly escape as nature escapes,
Shelley: We are Nature,
John W: long have we been absent,
Keith P: but now we return,
Elyse: We become plants, trunk,
Christy: foliage, roots, bark,
Laura: We are bedded in the ground,
Matt: we are rocks,
Jerry: We are oaks,
Penny: we grow in the openings
Gina: side by side,
Mel: We browse,
Nathan: we are two among the wild herds
B.C.: spontaneous as any,
Amy K: We are two fishes
Teddi: swimming in the sea together,
Megan: We are what locust blossoms are,
Craig: we drop scent around lanes mornings and evenings,
Merz: We are also the course smut of beasts, vegetables, minerals,
Chris: We are two predatory hawks,
John P: we soar above and look down,
Kate: We are two resplendent suns,
Jonny: we it is who balance ourselves orbic and stellar,
Dawn: we are as two comets,
Amanda: We prowl fang’d and four-footed in the woods,
Jnan: we spring on prey,
Marcy: We are two clouds forenoons and afternoons driving overhead,
Melanie: We are seas mingling,
Adrienne: we are two of those cheerful waves
Michael: rolling over each other and interwetting each other,
Jerz: We are what the atmosphere is,
Suzanne: transparent, receptive,
Kathy: pervious, impervious,
Keith N: We are snow, cold, darkness,
John A: we are each product
James: and influence of the globe,
Jen: We have circled and circled
Aaron: till we have arrived home again, we two,
Jen: We have voided all but freedom
Aaron: and all but our own joy.
Aaron/Jen “I Give you my hand! I give you my love more precious than money, I give you myself before preaching or law; Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me? Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?” (from Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road”)
We answer in the affirmative (right? right?). After each affirmative, one of us places the ring on the other’s finger.
Paul does his thing
we drink til the witching hour
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