The language in Public Law 104-199, passed by the 104th Congress in September of 1996, defined marriage and spouse this way: “…the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or wife.”
I invite you to hold that thought and watch the following video all the way to the very end.
Recently the Supreme Court of the United States of America ruled against the provision in Public Law 104-199 that defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman. This ruling opened the door for same sex couples that are legally married in states that recognize same sex marriage to receive many federal benefits that were previously only applied to heterosexual couples. While this is significant in terms of spousal equality, it does not begin to address the complex emotional struggles of same sex couples that fall in love and enter into long term committed relationships.
Many same sex couples seeking relationship counseling have enriched my life. As a therapist, my experience is that many of the issues that present for heterosexual couples also present in same sex couples’ relationships; and in most cases same sex couples face additional and often more complex struggles.
These complicated same sex relationship issues include things as far reaching as our immigration laws, the complexities of becoming parents, facing religious rejection, social discrimination, acts of hatred, and isolation from their respective families of origin. It is true that these kinds of issues also present in many other human lives outside of same sex relationships, yet I am struck by how often they complicate the relationships of same sex couples.
Watching the video above, I was so touched by the pure emotion on the faces of Dustin, Spencer, and all of their family and friends who joined in the exuberant celebration of the couple’s love for each other. I cried tears of joy while watching their family and friends participate so fully in Spencer’s proposal.
Knowing that belonging is a human survival mechanism and that our emotions play a powerful role in our lives, I am convinced that we all can improve our relationships by engaging with each other in celebrating meaningful rituals like marriage. Imagine the positive impact on our communities, our nation, and the world if ALL couples and families received the love and support Dustin and Spencer clearly receive from their family and friends. Authentic acceptance and unconditional love are healing messages directly from the heart. It is a wonderful feeling to know ‘Somebody Loves You’!
Claudia Gray, MA, LPC is a therapist who works with adults both as individuals and couples. One of her areas of expertise is working with the GLBTQ et.al. community. In addition to her private practice she is also an Intake Counselor at Maria Droste Counseling Center.