RingsIt’s Freedom to Marry Week, and I thought I’d mark the occasion by talking about why marriage matters to me.

Legal protections are part of the story, but only part. Civil unions and domestic partnerships can cover some (but not all) of the same rights and responsibilities. The greater reason for marriage, in my mind, is so that I can tell my son, “Yes, we’re married,” without any hesitancy or the thought that when he is older, I will have to explain why there’s an asterisk on that statement: “Void where prohibited.”

At four years old, he’s already asking what marriage means, having heard children and teachers discussing it at school. He once inquired whether his presence at his moms’ wedding meant he’s married to us, too. “You are part of our family because you’re our son,” I explained to him. “Marriage is one way grown-ups who aren’t related to each other can become part of the same family.” I didn’t want to get into explanations of other forms of relationship recognition, or the fact that Helen and I considered ourselves married long before we moved to Massachusetts and legalized it. There will be time enough for that as he grows older. School is already teaching him that marriage matters, regardless of the legislation and political games that swirl around it. His moms are married, in his eyes, and that gives him a certain sense of his family, a way to place it in context.

I dread having to teach him that once we cross the border of Massachusetts, our marriage becomes something other, something less than the concept he is learning about through friends and teachers. I know I will have to, for he will grow faster than our courts and legislators will act. All I can do is resolve to keep fighting so any period of doubt about his family’s validity, and about his own worth as a child of such a union, is kept to a minimum. I’d like him to grow up with a sense that even though there are small-minded people in the world, a sense of equality for all will ultimately prevail.

Why (or why not) does marriage matter to you?