A good day for gay teens

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I wish I could go back in time and tell my teen self that on June 26, 2013, it would get better.

Last week's rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court striking down the Defense of Marriage Act and upholding a lower court ruling allowing for gay marriage in California will help lead the way toward redefining marriage for all of America. A few states have taken the lead, now let's set the definition of marriage straight for all our country's gay and lesbian youths.

Opponents of same-sex marriage continually point to religion as the reason it is taboo. However, as the court's decisions clearly demonstrate, same-sex marriage isn't about religion -- it's about civility, or the equal right to obtain a civil marriage license and be recognized as an equal human being.

Same-sex marriage is pro-family. It's about letting that gay teenager out there know his love has dignity and she has a future in the human race as a full and equal part. Gays and lesbians won't feel the need to build walls between their future and their heterosexual family.

When I was a teen and realized I was gay, I had no concept of what my own future might be like. I grew up in a heterosexual family and came to know almost instinctively that I would never be a part of my family the way my siblings one day could. And the bonding of teenage heterosexual life eluded me. I felt isolated and unconnected and on my own.

No matter how many times I tried to imagine what my own marriage ceremony might look like -- the social significance, the beauty -- it was always only a dream. I could never have a marriage, never have a family, never be a full and equal part of the weddings and relationships and holidays that give families structure and meaning.

Looking forward, I saw nothing but emptiness and loneliness. No wonder it was hard to connect sex with love and commitment. No wonder it was difficult to feel at home in what was, in fact, my home.

I suspect many heterosexuals simply don't realize what a big deal this is. They never doubted that they could marry the person they love. It's hard for them to conceive how deep of a psychological and social wound the exclusion from marriage and family can be.

For today's generation of lesbian and gay kids, all of that is changing. They will be able to see their future as part of family life -- not in conflict with it. Their coming out will not feel like they're leaving home. As they date in adolescence and early adulthood, there will be comfort and security in knowing their relationships will have social structure and support.

As for religious objections, various groups can choose to endorse same-sex marriage, or not, as they see fit. Their freedom of conscience is as vital as the freedom for gays to be treated equally under civil law. There's no real reason why the two cannot coexist.

The Roman Catholic Church, for instance, opposes remarriage after divorce, but it no longer seeks to make divorce and remarriage illegal for everyone. The church has the authority to make laws governing people within its own church but not to govern the lives of people in civil society.

Uniting gay family members with their siblings and parents in the supportive ritual of civil marriage is pro-family. A young gay person's happiness and ability to make a new home is paramount -- and it fosters social responsibility and commitment. Why can't marriage be defined by the virtues it includes rather than by the people it excludes? Now each state of the union must welcome home its gay and lesbian citizens.

opinion_commentary

David Osheskie, born in Pittsburgh and raised in Vandergrift, is a writer living in Quincy, Mass. (david@misterwrite.info).


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