According to the Free (online) Dictionary, to pledge one's troth means:
"troth [trəʊθ]No, we were not "married". We made promises to each other of loyalty and fidelity and truth.
1. a pledge or oath of fidelity, esp a betrothal
2. truth (esp in the phrase in troth)
3. loyalty; fidelity
[Old English trēowth; related to Old High German gitriuwida loyalty; see truth]
And, for 35 years, we have kept that pledge. Without the "benefit" - however you define that - of marriage.
It has not been - is not, still - an easy thing to do. For a variety of reasons. Some of them personal. Others of them cultural.
We've co-parented - and continue to co-parent - six children. Five of them have graduated from college. With honors. Four have Master's Degrees. One is working on her doctorate. One is profoundly intellectually and physically challenged and lives in a sheltered group home. One has died. Four are married. There have been no divorces. Two have given us five grandchildren.
We are all good citizens. We are all gainfully employed. Some of us own homes. One rents an apartment. We pay our bills and our taxes. We all enjoy good health and we have good health insurance plans.
Ms. Conroy and I have a domestic partnership in NJ and will have a civil union in DE when it becomes legal here in January, 2012.
We will do that because it gives our family some measure of protection. Legally. Financially.
But, it's not the "troth".
Which is going to be difficult for some of you to hear. Hear me clearly: this is not an argument against marriage equality. We both fully support it and will continue to work for it.
Here's the 'troth' of the pledge of our troth: At this point, even if we had Marriage Equality in DE - or, throughout the United States - I'd have a problem talking Ms. Conroy into "tying the knot". She says, at our age, we have all the legal and financial security we're going to get. More than we've ever enjoyed in previous years. Our lawyer agrees.
Besides, she argues, we've had a Blessing of our relationship within the context of our family and our home. That was at our 10 Anniversary. Half of our rag-tag community of faith in Boston made the trek to Lowell, where we lived at the time, to witness and celebrate the event with our rector who, at the time couldn't - wouldn't - bless the 'troth' we had made ten years - and all those kids - earlier within the context of a ceremony in the church.
So, we've been blessed by our community of faith. Indeed, we've been blessed by our family and life itself. We have legal protection. What more could we possibly want?
Well, I say, Marriage Equality.
She shakes her head and says that we've gone this long without it, we don't need it. It won't add anything and may take away some thing.
Like what, I ask.
Like, she says, our integrity.
How, I ask.
By capitulating to the fact that the past 35 years have been somehow illegitimate, she says. That's a lie I'm not going to participate in. I'm not going to let the state suddenly legitimize what I know to be a truth that's been in existence for 35 years.
Think about it for a minute. You have to admit, she's got a point. I don't like it. I don't agree with it. But that doesn't mean it doesn't have validity.
Then again, she's the ultimate pragmatist. I'm the dreamer.
She's a Realist. I'm a Romantic.
I'm a Democrat. She's a Republican (Hand to Jesus!).
Maybe that's the secret of the past 35 years.
The fascinating thing is that she's more of a cultural rebel than I was 35 years ago. Really. That's something I would have said when we first got together.
Now, hear me again: I - we - will continue to fight for Marriage Equality. For. Every. One. It is a civil right and everyone should have the right to choose that. Or, not.
Indeed, it just may so happen that if the Marriage Faerie came and sprinkled magic dust that removed the homophobic, heterosexist film from the eyes of the bigots and gave courage to our legislators and Marriage Equality came to the land for everyone, I'm not so sure she wouldn't capitulate.
But, that's not the point. Her point. Which really points to the essence of what marriage is really all about.
Is marriage a financial contract? A social status? A legal license?
Yes, of course it is - when viewed only from the perspective of The State.
Is marriage about God's blessing and sacramental grace?
Yes, of course it is - when viewed only from the perspective of The Institutional Church.
The essence of marriage - what we've lost over the centuries or, perhaps, do not clearly understand - is that the heart of marriage is not about contracts and social status and license. Neither is it about the Church's ability to pronounce blessing and sacramental grace.
Marriage is really about sacred covenants and pledging troths. Truths.
Neither the church nor the state can either give that to anyone or take it away.
I'm deeply grateful for the 35 years we've had and proud of the things we've been able to accomplish. I'm especially proud of our family and the people and the citizens they have become.
So, here's to pledging troth and families and love and commitment.
And, here's to Marriage Equality for absolutely everyone, everywhere - lesbian, gay, bi, straight, transgender, intersex and queer - if they so choose.
Here's also to being able to pledge one's troth to another, which gives value and worth and status and depth and breath and meaning to the whole enterprise of marriage and makes it matter - whether the church or state recognize it or not.