I have gay friends who insist on getting married now that it's legal in New York. I value our friendship but don't want to attend the so-called "wedding" of two people of the same sex. Why can't people just be satisfied living together? What should I do?
Your feelings of not wanting to attend your friends’ weddings could arise from several sources. But to speak to the question of why can’t your friends just be satisfied living together: they likely want to marry for the same reasons most people do.
Legally recognized (“civil”) marriage provides a unique sense of legitimacy to relationships and a host of practical benefits. But on the most immediate level, the witnessing of vows by friends and family is deeply meaningful to couples marrying – it celebrates and supports their union and it helps establish the sense that those marrying are creating their own family and are thus fully “adult”. Just living together (or even being in a domestic partnership or civil union) doesn’t achieve this level of recognition of your friends’ mutual love.
You may find that your apprehension about attending the marriage of a same-sex couple dissipates when you’re actually at the wedding, and you realize that it is not fundamentally different than other weddings you’ve attended. It is a deeply personal experience and a chance for you be with your friends at a time of great tenderness, joy, and hope. These are dividends for you as well as for the couple.