Behold the flag of equal marriage. Inspired by the flag of women's suffrage, this flag presents equal marriage as an American idea — flag-ready, so to speak. And it depicts in an instantly recognizable way the gradual but decisive work of cultural change, as the field begins to fill with stars.
I can mark the moment when I changed my thinking on the subject of equal marriage, several years ago, after long supporting the idea of civil unions for all. Elaine and I were driving back from a restaurant with friends, same-sex partners who've been together about as long as we have. It occurred to me to wonder: why should we two have all the benefits afforded married couples while our friends did not? "Because we're heterosexual" hardly seemed a reasonable answer. Indeed, that answer seemed too similar to other claims of supposedly self-evident privilege, whatever elements of identity — color, gender, religion — those claims might involve.
Andrew Sullivan's 2004 essay "Why The M Word Matters To Me" speaks eloquently of marriage's necessity:
When people talk about gay marriage, they miss the point. This isn't about gay marriage. It's about marriage. It's about family. It's about love. It isn't about religion. It's about civil marriage licenses. Churches can and should have the right to say no to marriage for gays in their congregations, just as Catholics say no to divorce, but divorce is still a civil option. These family values are not options for a happy and stable life. They are necessities. Putting gay relationships in some other category — civil unions, domestic partnerships, whatever — may alleviate real human needs, but by their very euphemism, by their very separateness, they actually build a wall between gay people and their families. They put back the barrier many of us have spent a lifetime trying to erase.One day the flag of marriage equality will have fifty stars. It will look exactly like the American flag. I hope to be around when it becomes impossible to tell the one flag from the other.
[Flag of equal marriage by Carl Tashian, licensed under a Creative Commons License.]