The latest Gay & Lesbian Review (July-August) has a guest opinion piece (p. 4) by Steven R. Kleinedler, “Five Years Later, Marriage Equality Has Settled In”, about the death of his husband, Peter Dubuque, and some of the events that followed. (I first posted about this on August 1, on the American Dialect Society mailing list, because Steve is a lexicographer — supervising editor of the American Heritage Dictionary — and is known to many ADS-L readers.)
From Steve’s piece:
Just how far marriage equality has become a regular component of society here [in Massachusetts] has been made clear to me while interacting with people I didn’t know. In decades past, authority figures were often adversarial to the queer community. Now, in 2009, the EMTs, police officers, and detectives on the accident scene were extremely professional, respectful, and courteous.
Referring to Peter as my husband doesn’t raise eyebrows or result in scorn or sarcasm, whereas referring to him as my partner ten or fifteen years ago carried the risk of bad service, indifference, or outright hostility.
Steve’s piece is adapted from an essay (“In Massachusetts, a husband’s death shows how important marriage is — and how absolutely ordinary and accepted same-sex marriage has become” by Joe Sudbay) that appeared on AMERICAblog on April 23.
Note that Steve frames his assessment of the social change in attitudes about same-sex relationships partly in terms of the words used in this domain: marriage and husband, in particular. Committed long-term same-sex relationships have been around for a long time, but there has been no generally accepted vocabulary for talking about them, and the terminology that was used distinguished them from marriages. Now that (civil) marriage is available for same-sex couples in some places — even if many of the legal features of other-sex marriage don’t carry over to same-sex marriage — the vocabulary is unified, with the result that same-sex partnerships have in a sense become “naturalized”.