Right now in New York, the government is standing on the cusp of a decision on whether or not to make same-sex marriage legal in that state. Honey and I live over a thousand miles away, in a state that is so red that the color reflects off the necks of most of the natives. I can say that, because I’m from good Redneck stock. I’m a southern girl, and I still live in a part of the world where decisions in favor of same-sex marriage are likely not going to happen without some serious prodding from the national government.
I live in South Carolina, the first state to secede from the Union. I live about 9 miles from the place where the citizens of South Carolina gave the metaphorical finger to the United States government that started the Civil War.
South Carolinians, and southerners in general, still don’t cotton to being told what to do or believe. The phrase “states’ rights” is still uttered here on a regular basis.
There is a projection to the world that South Carolinians are universally conservative, Church-going, Bible-thumping Gamecock and Clemson Tiger fans. We aren’t all cut to that image.
The local and state government are a reflection of that projection. Anyone who doesn’t fit into that mold doesn’t have much of a voice in our government.
As a person who has lived with the consequences of residence in a state that has officially defined marriage as only between one man and one woman, I can say that I am told that what I do and what I believe are wrong by the politicians who are paid with my tax dollars. I am not represented at all in my government. Gay rights are not a part of the discussion in the state house in Columbia.
I’m a sweet tea drinking, big hat wearing, southern drawl speakin’ southern girl. I say “Yes ma’am” and “No sir” automatically, because I was raised to be polite. I feel like I’m in a foreign land when I get anywhere near the Mason-Dixon line. I don’t “look gay.” I don’t generally wave the Rainbow flag in my daily life. Not because I’m ashamed, but because my sexuality is a small part of my life. Just like it is for most normal, professional adults.
But I’m a southern girl who has considered traveling to parts north of here to marry the person I love. I’ve even considered, ever so briefly, moving to areas that are more tolerant of the fact that, one day, the perfect person told me that I was loved, and I was open-minded enough to listen, and open-hearted enough to know a gift when I got it.
Here’s the thing, though – I don’t cotton to being told what I can do or believe, just like most southerners I know. I don’t want to have to move somewhere that doesn’t feel like home in order to be accepted for who I am and who I love. I don’t really want my marriage certificate to bear another state’s seal.
So I’m praying that the sparks being lit in other parts of the country and the world will carry, and that someday they might just light a fire for equality here at home. It’s happened with other “impossible” causes in this state, and throughout the south. Interracial marriage was officially illegal in South Carolina until 1998. Things may change more slowly here than they do in other places, but I know that change is possible.
Until then, I’m living my life, just as I have for the last fifteen years. Nearly twelve years ago, I stood under an ancient tree with Honey, both of us in big white dresses, and made her some promises. At that time, I thought that legal same-sex marriage in the United States couldn’t happen in our lifetimes, but I still wanted to say those words to her. I have hope, because the world has changed a lot in these twelve years. I know that change is possible. I know that hearts and minds can be changed.
Today, I’m watching the news from New York, and later this week I hope to be cheering for a victory for couples who live in that state. I hope that there will be many happy weddings celebrated there soon.
Until then, I’ll be sipping my tea and holding her hand, because this is my life, and I’m going to live it. In happiness.