It Matters to Them, Too

Image“How many straight people are glued to their computers on a Friday night waiting to see if they can get married?”

That was the question I sarcastically posed to the Twitterverse as the New York State Senate debated a bill that would legalize marriage for same-sex couples. Late at night, when most people were out celebrating the start of their weekend, myself and about half- a-million other people around the world were at home. We were all streaming the deliberations that would become a milestone in the movement for marriage equality. It turns out that it was not just my homo peers who were eager to celebrate history; many of my straight friends made it clear that the decision was just as important to them.

There is a certain secret to social progress. When a movement matures to the point that its message resonates beyond the mere population it aims to elevate, a watershed moment is reach. One thing became evident when New York passed the bill: gay rights resonate with straight people, too. Equality matters to everyone because it defines the parameters by which we get to form our own, unique selves.

This is true not just in blue state havens, but also here on the ruby-red range. In the Midwest, you have to look beyond legislative bodies to see it, though. Progress is not just measured by political gains; it is often evident at personal points.

I saw this beautifully illustrated at my friend’s wedding—a heterosexual affair. Like a lot of straight women, one of her best friends is gay. On a normal night out, he would be “one of the girls”, a homosexual who dates men, though a heterosocial who hangs out with the ladies. Weddings being the ultimate gendered occasion, there is no true formality for guys who fall more into the bridesmaid category. On such an important day, though, shouldn’t the seminals of your ceremony reflect the contours of our life? That is what my friend decided, so she made him a bridesman! It was not a political statement about the institution of marriage; it was a personal reflection of interactions in her life.

When it came time for the recessional, interactions intersected into interesting.  As bridesmaids marched down the aisle with hands locked to their color-corresponding groomsmen, a tacit ponder permeated the room. Would the gay bridesman to the far-left lock arms with the last remaining (presumably straight) groomsman on the far-right? The answer was an understated, easy yes! As the two men clasped hands, wedding guests smiled lighthearted and clapped with approval. There was something about the spirit of that collective gesture that signaled more than a mere noise-making formality to end the ceremony. It was a sign of true progress. It was an indication that, gender politics aside, most Kansans just want the people they care about to be happy. There is perhaps no greater joy than having the freedom to celebrate one’s life exactly as it is.

It is likely to be a long time before Kansas joins the list of states where same-sex couples can marry. In the meantime, though, gay rights will continue to resonate on the range. The reason why? It matters when your best friend does not have the same rights as you. As more people come out, more events like this will unfold. All of that will add up to nights like that fateful Friday—when our straight friends are just as concerned about us having equal rights as we are

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