The Most Compelling Political Event of the Year
It wasn’t meant to be political.
In fact, Saturday night, while beautiful, was pretty conventional: two of my dear friends from graduate school were getting married. They are fellow economists who have spent 18 years together; they have supported each other through their careers, each has followed the other to different cities, and they provide each other with support in their personal lives.
The only difference is that Jed and Eric are both men.
In many respects, their wedding followed the script I’ve celebrated as my other graduate school buddies have married. Friends and family were assembled, and the lucky couple were excited and busy hosts, making sure that all the details were in place.
But there were differences. The timing of their wedding had little to do with the progress of their relationship. It is pretty unusual for a couple to wait 18 years to marry. But in this case, their choice reflects the fact that they were legally unable to move ahead until the California Supreme Court ruled that the state’s Constitution recognizes their right to marriage. And they were forced to rush their wedding ahead of next week’s election, as a ballot initiative (Prop 8) seeks to take away this right by amending the constitution.
And so circumstances dictated that their love and their wedding, while being intensely personal, was also somehow public and political.
In a symbolically loaded part of their ceremony, an African-American friend invited them to “jump the broom.” During slavery, society refused to recognize the rights of many African-Americans to marry. Despite this, marriage — formalized by a couple jumping over a broom — continued to thrive. Today, we recognize those earlier marriage bans as a gross historical injustice.
The thing that struck me about their ceremony was how viscerally it changed my own feelings about gay marriage. I had always supported gay marriage, but it was an abstract, intellectual support; now it’s personal. And so a friend’s wedding became, for me, the most compelling political event of the year.
Here’s an interesting thought: How has the recent wave of same-sex weddings changed the political landscape? There have now been thousands of same-sex weddings, each enjoining scores of invited friends and family to re-examine their thoughts and feelings. There’s a pretty good chance that one of these folks might be the pivotal voter on Tuesday. And I suspect that this is a much more motivating political force than the tens of millions being spent on political advertising.