Friday, April 3, 2009

Tale of an Iowa Marriage

My parents met 47 years ago while they were both graduate students in Wisconsin. My father, seeking a Ph.D. in history, had grown up in a cosmopolitan household that moved from Kansas City to Virginia to the Upper East Side. My mother, pursuing a Masters in Russian, was the only child of a newspaper editor from Iowa.

They married in a small ceremony in my grandparents' house in Iowa. Only 20 people or so attended, including all 4 of their grandmothers. The young couple moved to the DC area where my father taught history and my mother worked as a Russian translator for the federal government. (She still can't tell us what exactly she did.)

They had two beautiful, intelligent, fascinating daughters. (Ok, maybe I'm bragging there, but I'm also saying nice things about my sister!) They lived for a while in Boston before settling in Kansas. My mother stopped working at a job, instead spending her time on political activism and child-rearing. My father changed jobs several times, never quite finding the thing that made him happy (until he became a tour director about 15 years ago).

My parents made it through tight financial times, the difficult teen years of an emotional daughter (not me), a year of living apart when my dad got a job in a different town right before my sister started her senior year of high school, and the strain of putting two daughters through private colleges. (Yes, my parents paid for my college. I will be forever grateful and I will return the favor by footing the bill for any child of mine to go wherever s/he wants.)

My parents had some tough times, probably mostly due to finances and my dad's career dissatisfaction. In later years, my grandmother confided to me that she once thought my parents wouldn't make it. But they did. And now they are enjoying retirement and travel. I cannot imagine either of them succeeding at marriage with anyone else.

After all they have endured in the last 45 years, I am supposed to believe that a ruling today by the Iowa Supreme Court poses the real threat to their marriage?

Well, I can happily inform you that the reports of a threat to my parents' marriage have been greatly exaggerated. Their marriage certificate is still intact. They have not suddenly fallen out of love. And they do not feel any bit less married today than they did yesterday. Believe me, if my parents could survive my sister's teen years, they can survive anything.

In fact, I think they both feel a little better about that long-ago issued piece of paper because now they can look at it and know that ANY two people in Iowa who love each other and want to commit their lives to each other can get that same piece of paper with the same blessing from the state that they received 45 years ago. Recognizing the rights of a marginalized group reaffirms the rights of the rest of us. And recognizing love in a previously-shunned form reaffirms love in all its forms. By affirming marriage for all today, the Iowa Supreme Court affirmed my parents' marriage. For that, I say thank you, Court.

What these two people have built over the past 4 decades, let no expansion of rights tear asunder.


Language Lover said...

Hear, hear.

Sherman Alexie, a heterosexual Native American writer, said in a speech once, "Gay people don't threaten my marriage. You know what threatens my marriage? Good-looking women without boundaries!" It was funny, but really made a whole lot of sense. How the HECK does the ability of others to marry diminish my marriage? It's not a zero-sum game, like there can only be a certain number of marriages a year or something.

Unknown said...

That's a beautiful essay to illustrate the idiocy of that family-threat nonsense.

KBO said...


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