Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about marriage. Calm down, I’m not getting married…. YET! But, it’s been high on the list of topics in conversations I have with friends and people I encounter in my work, here at GLAAD, especially since the Supreme Court is being asked to consider several important marriage equality issues.
I’ve talked about it with everyone, from young people who are passionate and adamant about our right to equal marriage, to friends who are members of a, shall we say, more “seasoned” generation, who never imagined that they would ever live to see a day when marriage was a very real option for us.
I had breakfast with one of those “seasoned” couples yesterday morning while I was in San Francisco. Charley and Frank have been together for over 40 years. They’ve lived in California for the entire span of their relationship. This is their home and they are clearly in love with each other and their life here yet it’s not legal for them to marry.
Looking at this lovely couple I decided to ask about their early years. I’m always fascinated with how people meet, maybe because I’m secretly hoping it will, somehow, give me a clue as to how I might meet “HIM” someday. They told me the story of their flirtation and first months together, finishing each other’s sentences, taking their cues from one another, overlapping and correcting each other, and finally, ending in a well-rehearsed, beautifully choreographed crescendo as they both just threw their heads back and laughed about it all. Then one turned to me and said, very simply, “Isn’t he cute?” That’s where they got me. Here was this beautiful, loving couple taking care of each other, providing for each other, enjoying each other, and presumably, fighting with each other for 40 years and one could still look at the other and gush. This is a sentiment that first occurred to him over 40 years ago and still occurs to him today. That’s when I suddenly realized that Charley and Frank remind me of another loving couple—my parents.
My parents, Iris and Wilson, met over 40 years ago when they were both 13 years old and living in Brooklyn, New York. They fell in love and were married when they were 18 years old. They have 3 children and now they share grandchildren. They will be the first to tell you that it hasn’t been easy and that it’s been nothing short of work. And more than a few times I know they thought about calling it quits. If asked, they’d say they stayed together because of the love and history they share. But I know, because I’ve seen it in their eyes, they’ve stayed together because my father can still grab my mother’s hand, after 40 years, and say, “Isn’t she cute?”
If we were to stand these two couples side by side, at first glance, you would assume they had nothing in common. But nothing could be further from the truth. Charley and Frank and Iris and Wilson are very much the same. They share what we all dream of having one day: a loving partnership and a commitment that endures all of the obstacles life throws our way. The one glaring difference, of course, is that Charley and Frank’s union is not legally recognized by the State of California or the Federal Government of the United States.
Marriage is important to our society and to couples, for its legal protections that allow couples to take care of each other, and for its symbolism, for the love and commitment it stands for. More and more people every day are speaking out for marriage equality, and we welcome every one of them. What they understand and what I was reminded of yesterday morning was that in this country and in every country around the world, whether we are gay or straight, white, Asian, or Latino, all any of us really wants is someone to look at us after a lifetime together and say, “Isn’t he cute?”
Wilson Cruz is an openly gay actor and National Spokesperson and Strategic Giving Officer at GLAAD. Tweet him at @wcruz73 and @glaad.