My opinions on the same-sex marriage debate had mostly settled. I had been involved in many discussions about how society should handle gay rights, and had come to think that the fairest thing would be to recognize gay relationships in exactly the same ways that society recognizes straight relationships.

I would ask people: Really, how different are they? I found out.

In 1994, I married the girl I'd first fallen for in seventh grade. About 10 years later, he explained that he was actually not a girl. Honestly, it explained a lot of things.

Human identity resides in the brain; you have a sense of self that can disagree with the rest of your body. You might feel thinner or fatter than your body is; you might also feel more male or female than your body is.

Scientific studies of this phenomenon have generally concluded that transgendered people (people who think they are of a different gender than their body appears to be) are reporting something that is true of their brain, even if it's not true of the rest of their body.

Attempts to raise people with a particular gender that doesn't match their brain consistently fail. People know who they are, although they sometimes have difficulty expressing this awareness in words.

I won't deny that we talked for a bit about whether my spouse's gender meant we might not actually be married. But we're both pretty devout Christians (though not in the modern American mainstream), and we have strong feelings about marriage. We had said "until death do us part" -- not "until things get sorta weird."

Neither of us wanted to give up over something trivial, so that was that. We filed the question whether we were a gay or a straight couple under "things we agree to disagree about." (He thought we were gay; I thought we were straight.) We went on with our shared life together.

It was the right choice. Several years later, we've learned that the reason no one can tell us how gay and straight marriages are different is that they aren't different. People are people. Love is love.

We have gone from disagreeing about what kind of marriage we're in to realizing that the question is meaningless. I was surprised to discover that my wife was actually a husband, but so what? Compared to the surprises some people get from their spouses, this seems pretty easy to deal with.

We made our promises before God and everybody to stick together. I know some people disapprove of same-sex relationships, but I'd rather keep my promises than not.

Back in the 1960s, many people sincerely believed that interracial relationships were somehow wildly different from "proper" relationships. But as they got to know interracial couples, they learned that there was no difference there.

Watching other couples, gay and straight, has confirmed my belief that there is no difference here, either. Discovering that my own marriage of 10-plus years might actually be gay, or might have been gay all along, and that no one could tell which, ended all doubt.

If there's such a chasm between these things, why is it that people don't even agree as to which side of that chasm I'm on?

The proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot in November would enshrine this illusory distinction between marriages in the foundation of Minnesota's laws. It aims to deny same-sex relationships the legal benefits and respect that we have always taken for granted.

Such a denial is just a nasty thing to do. I am sure some of the proponents mean well, but meaning well doesn't make up for doing harm.

People advocate protecting marriage by restricting the genders of marriage partners, but say little about frivolous marriages and divorces. How about instead we protect marriage by taking it seriously?


Peter Seebach lives in Northfield.