Gay Marriage: Our Time Has Come (Or Has It?)
With the ruling by the California Supreme Court declaring the law against gay marriage unconstitutional, gay marriage was legal in California starting in mid-June, 2008, until November, 2008. For many gay and lesbian couples, this is a time of celebration, in that long-held plans to celebrate a union and marry legally can now be set in motion with joy and excitement. However, this right was taken away by Proposition 8 as of Election Day, 2008, an initiative sponsored by right-wing, anti-gay hate groups (mostly made up of Mormons and Catholics, but also Evangelicals and Ultra-Orthodox Jews) who essentially re-wrote the California Constitution so that only heterosexuals have access to the civil, legal right to marriage under California secular law. This political and legal battle creates yet another stress on gay and lesbian couples, who are eager to achieve at long last appropriate state validation for their relationships and access to full legal civil rights. To protect and preserve this right, the gay/lesbian community and those who love them have fought this chilling and particularly mean-spirited ballot measure.
UPDATE: August 4, 2010: As of today, a federal judge has rule Proposition 8 unconstitutional. Legal ramifications are to follow, with the possible restoration of same-sex marriage rights soon.
But beyond the political ramifications, gay and lesbian couples also face a decision to consider their relationship an unregistered cohabitation, a registered domestic partnership, or a legal civil state marriage. When the two partners of a couple don’t agree on what status to choose, conflict can arise. Complicating the issue is that there are many compelling social, legal, and financial considerations that are both pro and con for each of these options, and in many cases, gay-affirmative legal counsel is required to make an informed choice. In other cases, couples therapy is enough to clarify the options and make a decision.
Some of the work that I do with couples in couples counseling can address these issues. By giving each partner the opportunity to express why he or she prefers a particular legal status option, the partners can “air out” their feelings and begin to negotiate the pros and cons of each option. Once this is done, the couple can then choose an agreement on what option is best for them — which is ultimately the most important factor in defining their relationship. Their relationship configuration does not have to work for others, only for the two of them. This can be an important utilization of couples therapy, which can bring relief — and joy — to the future of a relationship.
The decisions of how to formalize your relationship contain many variables, from legal, to financial, to social. My “pre-marital” counseling sessions can help both partners of a relationship feel like their needs and concerns are being heard and responded to. The couple gains clarity, fairness, and increased romance, and confidence for a secure and happy future together.