Four years ago this week, on an icy Valentine’s night, I walked down the grand staircase at the Indiana Repertory Theatre, met my bride halfway, and stood before our friend John, whom we’d chosen to officiate at our marriage ceremony.
There’d been a massive winter storm the day before, but despite the treacherous roads and bitter winds, people came from Chicago and Virginia, Bloomington and Fort Wayne, Broad Ripple and Avon.
After a brief introduction, Jennie DeVoe and Nicole Proctor sang The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun.” Considering the weather, and where we’d been in our lives, the closing verse seemed especially apropos:
Little darling, I feel the ice is slowly melting.
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been clear.
Here comes the sun.
Here comes the sun.
And I say, it’s all right.
After the song, John spoke of marriage:
“This moment tonight is not just for them. It is also for us,” he said. “All of us are called to love and to be in loving relationships. We are called to celebrate and to enrich the special bonds that form among those we know and those we come to love.
“If you are here tonight with your spouse or a partner or among family and friends, let this ceremony be a reminder and a rededication of your own loving bond. Let this space and this ceremony remind us that love is ever-present in every way if we are simply open to see it. Let this space and this ceremony reaffirm the incredible truth that we are all connected. Let this space and this ceremony cause us to remember that love and commitment are not about producing obligations, but rather for providing opportunities. Love and marriage are not about rules—they are about expansion and self-expression.”
I write this column from the back porch of a cottage overlooking Grace Bay on the island of Providenciales in Turks and Caicos.
In the spirit of “long cold lonely winters” and slowly melting ice and “Here Comes the Sun,” we’ve traveled here for each of our anniversaries. It’s our chance to escape our obligations to others, to reaffirm our connection, to renew our vows.
It was on that cold Valentine’s Day in 2007 that we promised one another to “give you my deepest friendship and love, not only when your moments are high, but when they are low. Not only when you remember clearly your greatness, but also when you forget. Not only when you are acting with love, but when you are not. Not only in times of happiness, but in times of darkness … to honor the life and the divinity within you and to share the life and the divinity within me, through all of our days ahead.”
Our marriage was and is, of course, completely legal. No one said that because my first marriage ended in divorce that I was ineligible. No one said that because my second marriage ended in my wife’s death by cancer that I could not discover love anew.
Instead, it was about love being ever-present in every way because we were open to seeing it. It was about celebrating and enriching the bond that had evolved between us. It was not about rules, but about expansion and self-expression.
And yet I sit here in this beautiful place celebrating this beautiful relationship when I read the ugly news from back home—news that Indiana legislators have, once again, voted to deny to some citizens—those who are gay and lesbian—the blessing of marriage given to Cheri and me.
According to The Indianapolis Star, James Bopp, an attorney for socially conservative causes, said that a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage “has important effects in protecting the … foundation of families and the raising of children … but equally important is the right of the people to make the decision.”
In other words, in a nation that guarantees certain individual rights, some Indiana legislators want to empower a voting majority to deny such rights to a select few.
In a nation founded on the concept that all are created equal, some state lawmakers seek to instill inequality.
In a state that prides itself on “don’t tell me what to do,” some state legislators seek to legislate something as personal as love.
In a state where we preach the importance of jobs and economy, some legislators want to discourage workers and employers from staying or moving here by discriminating against them.
In a state that preaches the gospel of less government, some legislators are preaching government in our bedrooms.
The sad truth is that because he is gay, the celebrant who performed that loving ceremony for us could not, himself, be married in the state of Indiana. Here, love is indeed about rules—with no room for expansion or self-expression.
If we truly care about loving relationships and families, we should vow to end that, not institutionalize it.•
Hetrick is chairman and CEO of Hetrick Communications Inc., an Indianapolis-based public relations and marketing communications firm. His column appears twice a month. He can be reached at [email protected]