When all is not fair in gay love and war.
It’s safe to say that 2019 was a big year for the LGBTQ+ community: it saw the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising and the release of the Judy Garland biopic. Not to mention the fact that same-sex marriage was legalized in Northern Ireland, Ecuador, Taiwan and Austria. For the most part, weddings are fun – you get to hear two people commit the rest of their lives to each other. Even though objecting during the ceremony is a common occurrence in movies (that we’d all secretly love to do just once!) it’s rare in real life because love is love. That is, until it’s not.
Before the Supreme Court’s landmark 2015 ruling, Obergefell v. Hodges, married same-sex couples who lived in a state that didn’t allow gay marriage couldn’t get divorced in those states. Furthermore, the states that performed same-sex marriages required a period of residency before a couple could be divorced. For instance, if you lived in Alabama but got married in Massachusetts, you’d have to get a place in Massachusetts in order to file for divorce. Imagine trying to get a divorce from someone, then realizing you have to rent an apartment together for 90 days. When you’re arguing about books and crockpots, that’s not something anyone would want to do.
And to add another hurdle, some couples who had civil unions before their legal marriages, were required to legally dissolve both partnerships. Divorce was legal in many states, but it was only easy for straight couples. It wasn’t until the Obergefell decision that same-sex couples were also granted the right to get divorced in every state.
Divorce is never actually easy—whether you’re gay or straight. And after the years of struggle behind the gay marriage movement, it can be especially sorrowful for some. Writer Steven Petrow wrote about his divorce in the Atlantic, and said this: “We had to go through the same wretched process all divorcing couples do. That visibility gave me pride—at least on the good days. On other days, a sense of personal failure weighed heavily on me.”
He also wrote about his friends’ reactions to his divorce. They called it a “break-up” or a “split”—words that minimized the weight of what was actually occurring. Nobody refers to a straight couple going through a divorce as breaking up, so why should we do the same with gay couples? Is it because our hopes for their marital bliss are higher? Perhaps. But at the end of the day, someone else’s marriage isn’t about us. It’s about two people and their life with – or without – each other.