The right to be boring

By Cokie & Steven Roberts

United Media

We’re “hosting a local celebration,” said the invitation, for two couples getting married this summer. The hosts didn’t bother to mention that one of the couples, Kevin and Grant, are gay.

This is one small sign of a large social trend. More gay couples are forming committed relationships, and for a simple reason. Wanting a partner, a soul mate, to share one’s life is the most elemental of human emotions.

Many of these couples would like to get married. Some of that impulse is practical -- merging tax returns or sharing health benefits. But the deeper motive is psychological -- making a public promise, to the world and to each other.

As Kevin told us: “Each of us has found what most people spend a lifetime looking for -- the one person who knows us better than any other, the person who will sacrifice for the other, the person who will care for and protect the other.” Adds Grant: “Marriage is about creating family. Kevin will be my family after July 8th.”

Ironically, the invitation to the wedding party (the actual ceremony will be in Canada, where gay marriage is legal) came just as the Senate was debating and rejecting a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. “Marriage is under attack,” thundered Sen. Bill Frist, the majority leader, and he has a point (think of the disposable men in “Sex and the City” and the disposable women of “The Sopranos”). But it’s not under attack from the likes of Kevin and Grant. In fact, the precise opposite is true.

These young men embody all the values of tradition and tenacity that foes of gay marriage say they believe in. The whole idea that they endanger the institution of matrimony by wanting to join it is absurd. And they are hardly unusual.

As reader Stephanie Thomas wrote to the Los Angeles Times: “According to President Bush, I’m a threat to society. I live in Burbank with my partner and our two girls. We are employed, pay taxes, vote and, besides a random parking ticket, obey the law. ... We even have two dogs. ... So who and what is the real threat? Trust me, we’re boring.”

That is not exactly the picture of gay life painted by the religious right, and Jonathan Rauch, writing recently in The New York Times, concedes that the culture was promiscuous and irresponsible in the 70s: “The master narrative for gay life was: come out, leave home, gorge at the banquet of sexual liberation.”

Then came AIDS, and gays found themselves caring for dying friends and lovers. In the process, they learned a basic truth: “No relative, government program or charity is as dependable or consoling as a dedicated partner.”

As we approach our own 40th anniversary, we believe in marriage more than ever. It might not be right for all people all of the time, but it’s right for most people most of the time, whatever their sexual orientation, and friends like Kevin and Grant have convinced us to alter our views and support gay marriage.

We’ve always supported civil unions, which give same-sex couples certain legal rights. But we shared the concerns of our good friend, Rep. Barney Frank, an outspoken gay leader, who worried that America was not ready for gay marriage.

His fears are still justified in many parts of the country. And we don’t think religious institutions should be forced to perform or recognize same-sex ceremonies.

But the trend line is clear. According to the Gallup poll, 39 percent of Americans now approve of gay marriage, an increase of 12 points over the last decade. Despite all the over-heated rhetoric about gays “undermining” marriage, real-world experience tells a very different story.

Same-sex unions have been legal in parts of Canada for three years and that country has hardly collapsed into social anarchy. Even the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has adapted, assigning gay couples near each other. Jason Tree, a Mountie who is marrying his partner this summer, told the Washington Post: “Just look at the last 10 years to see how far we have come in Canada. I’m hoping some day soon this will all die down.”

So are we. Virtually every American has gay friends (sometimes without knowing it). Vice President Cheney has a gay daughter, who says the Republican Party should “wake up” and recognize the growing tolerance for same-sex relationships. Like Kevin and Grant, she deserves to marry her own partner and create her own family. And be boring.

Steve Roberts’ latest book is “My Fathers’ Houses: Memoir of a Family” (William Morrow, 2005). Steve and Cokie Roberts can be contacted by e-mail at

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