The Same Rights: A Story of Family and Gay Marriage

Editor’s note: this piece was originally written for Smerconish.com in April 2018. I’m excited to share Chantal’s story now with all of you. The end of the piece features an update from the author.

 

Do you really love someone if you don’t want them to have the same civil rights as yourself?

My fiancé and I recently sent out our wedding invitations. While we expected several people would choose not to attend, I didn’t think I would be getting a letter of explanation.

My fiancé and I are lesbians. My uncle and his wife are Catholic and have strong beliefs in their faith.

I have always known this and kept any showing of me being gay away from their eyes as best as possible while still trying to be myself. I grew up with them living in another state, so it wasn’t often that we saw each other after their kids and I became older. I fully expected they wouldn’t be attending my wedding, but I felt it was right to invite them. I even thought perhaps they had grown in their beliefs about the subject now that it’s legal, the year was 2018, and I’m in my thirties.

My mother called and left a message that I was going to receive a letter from my uncle. She wanted to make sure I talked to her before I opened it. She sounded aggravated and sad, so I figured what the letter would be about. When I called her back, my mom was pretty fired up about the situation. My uncle said he and my aunt would not attend the wedding and that they were going to write me a letter. My uncle couldn’t be talked out of writing the letter.

The whole situation really bothered my mother as she even tried to explain to my uncle how people did the same thing to her when she married my father in the 80s; she is white, and my dad is black. Many people didn’t attend, but she never knew their reasons. The only people whom she knew were against her interracial marriage were the ones who made a point to tell her.

She told my uncle that it made her think differently of those people because they made the point to tell her that they thought what she was doing was wrong. My uncle didn’t seem to understand the comparison.

My grandma wasn’t happy with my uncle either. Even though she is Catholic and generally doesn’t believe in same-sex marriage, my grandma would attend my wedding to support me and my happiness regardless. In her generation, this kind of thing just never happened, but she is growing on the issue. My grandma had met past girlfriends as well as my fiancé several times. She has always been open and loving to them and even occasionally asks about exes from ages ago.

I told my mother that it wasn’t a big deal. I wasn’t surprised at their refusal. I even found it comical that they would decide to write a letter to explain themselves.

I definitely know that my mother and sister are very upset by my uncle’s actions, yet I’m the calmest of all. But they haven’t lived my life and experienced these kinds of comments and attitudes for years. I’ve gotten over the upset and onto the reality of being the bigger and better person.

A few days later, I received the letter. Addressed from my aunt and uncle.

Of course, it was a nicely worded letter expressing their love for me, how they know that my fiancé must be an amazing person and that they look forward to meeting her.

But then that they would be “unable to attend” and they hope I would be “understanding of, and sensitive to, our different views on this.” At first reading it, they are nice, saying sweet things about me and my fiancé, sending good thoughts for our wedding.

But then I thought to myself, can you really love me if you don’t believe I should be able to have the same right to marry as your kids do? Is that really love?

The question is easy and hard to answer. I’m a logical person and oftentimes assess love in more stringent terms. I don’t believe blood is thicker than anything because I know too many stories of a family being horrible to people, and friends being someone’s true family. I believe that every relationship you have in life – friends, coworkers, family, love relationships – they all require efforts on both sides to maintain the relationship. I hold everyone to the same standard; treat others as you would want to be treated. The answer is easy for me: no, they do not truly love me. They are my family, and that doesn’t always mean love.

I’m 32-years-old and biracial. I played varsity soccer at a division 1 college, have two bachelor’s degrees, and am currently in law school about to start my 3L year. I also played 8 years of women’s semi-pro football as a running back, wide receiver, and kicker. I’ve also been in the Army Reserves for 7.5 years; four as an enlisted mechanic and the past three as an Officer.

My fiancé is 30, white, and has previously served in the Army for 10 years with two tours to Afghanistan. We are huge Detroit Lions fans (well my fiancé is; I just want to make her happy). We own a house together where we are currently working hard to fix up the yard for the summer, to include the garden boxes I built for her. I have spent an enormous number of days at Menard’s because we own a house built in 1929, and I like to be handy and try to fix anything and everything (occasionally to my own detriment). We have three cats and a stubborn bulldog. My fiancé travels 45 minutes to work in Chicago, and I drive 45 minutes the other way to law school. I listen to Michael Smerconish every day between classes.

From all I can tell, we are a normal couple, doing normal things, being good people, working hard, serving our country and trying to make some tomatoes grow. But somehow, being gay is the showstopper.

And one last kicker, that aunt is my Godmother.

 

UPDATE FROM THE AUTHOR:

The first week in July, we attended a family wedding, and the aunt and uncle at issue were there. We spoke to them, and even my aunt said she was so excited to finally meet my fiancé. It was a little bit surreal, but luckily I have a very big family, so there are many others to talk to and hang out with. My fiancé was a bit taken aback by the kindness of the couple. She even said she was bummed about the situation because she really liked my aunt. I told her this was the weird thing about all of it.

They could have just declined to attend the wedding, said nothing about their religious views and there would have been no issue. Instead, because of their letter to me, my mom and my sister were extremely upset, and my fiancé was concerned and uncomfortable about meeting them.

We got married on July 27th, 2018 in Michigan City, IN. We had about 100 people attend, and it went off without an issue. Two of my cousins (my aunt and uncle’s children) attended and without hesitation enjoyed the celebration. No mention of this issue came up.

My now-wife never wanted to have the big wedding. She wanted to just go to the courthouse and maybe have a party later on. I was adamant how important it was to me to have the same wedding opportunity that my sister had. If we are truly no different, I want the typical wedding and reception, but obviously with our own flare. In the end, my wife loved the wedding, the party, and that we had such a great time with family friends. We will probably see my uncle and aunt again at another family gathering and I will continue to “kill ‘em with kindness.”