Jeff Lutes

Equality, Freedom, & Public Displays of Affection

Filed By Jeff Lutes | July 10, 2013 1:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: gay and lesbian relationships, LGBT families, marriage equality, public displays of affection, same-sex couples

Ojo Caliente.JPGDOMA is dead and same-sex couples are free to marry in California and 12 other states. Chad Griffin, President of HRC, has publicly announced an initiative to win marriage equality in all states within five years and numerous other LGBT organizations are working tirelessly toward a similar goal. Recent polls show growing acceptance across America for granting same-sex couples the right to marry, with some growth even among evangelical Christians.

The freedom to marry is coming, but does that equality result in the freedom to publicly express the love we feel in those marriages?

My family just got back from vacationing for a week in Santa Fe, New Mexico (a state which honors out-of-state marriages but does not yet perform them in-state). One of our activities included spending the day at Ojo Caliente - the rejuvenating mineral springs originating from rainwater collected and heated in deep underground aquifers. Like a number of other families that day, my husband and I relaxed and played with our kids in the one pool that allows children. We make no effort to hide our relationship and anybody with an ounce of awareness can see that we are a family.

However, there was one major difference that day in our behavior and that of other families in the pool.

Heterosexual couples embraced each other in sensual and silent abandon. They hugged, touched, and occasionally gave each other a peck on the cheek or the lips. Some couples did this while their children were climbing all over them. There was no groping or inappropriateness, just the natural displays of affection between two people in love.

Meanwhile, my husband and I maintained a personal space consistent with that of an intimate relationship, but we did not feel comfortable enough to hold each other or kiss like the others.

I often pat my husband on the back or hug him in public, but to be honest, a part of me is always aware of what I perceive might be the limits to such public displays of affection. I guess I still try to avoid making others too uncomfortable - not because I care what they think of us - but because, like most LGBTQ people, I have the installed radar system that constantly functions to keep my family safe from ridicule, assault, and other forms of harm.

I live in Austin - a very progressive and accepting city right in the middle of Texas - the red state that some fear might be the very last to allow same-sex marriage. So I'm curious...

Do those of you who live in one of the 13 states with marriage equality find it any easier to publicly display affection for the one you love?

We have courageously fought for equality and that fight continues. How do we simultaneously find the courage to express the normalcy of that love, like heterosexual couples do everyday, when we are out and about in our communities?

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