Wednesday, June 20, 2012

In Massachusetts, Marriage is Just Marriage

This column originally appeared in the Sun Chronicle on June 4, 2012

Last week my wife and I celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary. Well, “celebrated” may be a bit of an exaggeration. We spent the day volunteering for our church by working at a Gillette Stadium concession stand during an NCAA lacrosse tournament, followed by Chinese takeout because we were too tired for a restaurant experience. Who says I’m not a romantic?

But despite our rather pathetic observation of this landmark moment, we both appreciate the fact we have made it this far together. Marriage is a lot of things, but easy isn’t always one of them. While I’m sure there are many storybook couples who spend endless days staring dreamily into each others eyes, we are more likely to be found arguing over the checkbook, or what to have for dinner, or whatever I happen to have done wrong that day.

But we don’t care if our marriage conforms to the standards others may have. What we have works for us, and our love is as deep and lasting as I can possibly imagine. We have raised two great sons, are enjoying two perfect grandchildren, and live our lives according to what makes us happy rather than what may be expected of us. To us, that’s what marriage is truly all about.

So perhaps that explains why we are so puzzled by the great debate going on in this country. It is difficult to get into a political discussion today without treading on the topic of “gay marriage” and whether or not it should be allowed. In fact, President Obama recently changed his position and became the first sitting president to formally endorse the concept. Frankly, we don’t understand that either.

Maybe it’s because we live here in Massachusetts, where marriage is an inclusive institution rather than a restrictive one. In the Bay State we believe it is more important to celebrate marriage than to define it. We don’t have gay marriage, or straight marriage, or religious marriage, or marriage of any particular race, creed or color. We just have marriage. It is the same for everyone, with no regard to your race, religion, sports team affiliation, favorite color, or sexual preference.

And yes, there are some obvious and important common sense restrictions on marriage that are enforced. You can’t wed your sibling, or your dog, or your car, or any of the other silly and foolish examples often mentioned in an effort to defend discrimination in this great institution.

But here marriage needs no defending. In fact, it is flourishing. In Massachusetts people who love each other and want to commit to their relationship are all given the same legal and social rights – except where the federal government prevents that from happening, of course. Here we don’t judge those who marry, beyond perhaps wondering why you might want to get yourself entangled in this wonderful yet complicated institution.

Here we don’t try and stop people from getting married if they so desire. It always amazes me when some feel the need to protect the value of their relationship by lessening or diminishing the value of the relationship of others. Some folks extol the virtues of marriage – but only if you believe as they do. If the integrity of your relationship is somehow dependent on the relationship of others, you may want to rethink marriage. And that goes whether your partner is of the opposite sex or the same gender.

I don’t claim to be any sort of an expert on marriage. My 35 years as a part of one is much more a testament to my wife’s patience than any abilities I may possess. Our marriage – for better or worse – is based on our personal commitment to each other and the life we have built together. The only marriage rules we follow are the ones my wife lays down – er, I mean the ones we mutually agree on after much sharing and discussion. I hope I got that right.

Marriage is about telling your spouse what to do, not about telling others who they can marry. And that’s the way it should be everywhere. Just ask my wife – she’ll explain it to you. She had no trouble explaining it to me…

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

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