This past Saturday, as halftime was just beginning at the Big House, I took my place in a row of tuxedo-clad groomsmen at my brother’s wedding. The ceremony was held in the atrium of a gorgeous hotel, with a sweeping ceiling and foliage all around us. And, to my surprise, diners at the adjoining hotel bistro were able to watch the wedding from across a small reflection pond.

I glanced at these curiously close restaurant patrons from time to time throughout the ceremony. Mostly businessmen and hurried travelers, they seemed uninterested in the wedding at first. But as the service went on, each became slowly transfixed on the glowing bride and groom. By the vows, some were apparently even tearing up. The invited guests were visibly moved, and I, of course, started to cry the moment the bride first appeared. Yet I was profoundly astonished by the awed reactions of the people in the restaurant.

I wondered how they could possibly be so moved to cry and cheer at the sight of a stranger’s wedding. Their sentiments, obviously unrelated to any personal connection to the bridal party, seemed to exemplify a collective awe at the institution of marriage. And in seeing this, it finally hit me exactly how beautiful marriage really is. Sure, a wedding is supposed to make a person feel that way. But while I could recognize that my brother’s marriage may not be as smooth and perfect as his wedding ceremony, I was awestruck by the ceremony’s affirmation of love everlasting.

The bride and groom’s commitment is something I can only hope I may one day create with someone in my own life. I often think about eventually getting married, but as a gay man, I have a hunch it may be difficult as long as the law forbids it. With the legality of same-sex marriage up in the air, this wedding experience made it clearer for me that while it seems all but ignored in the current debate, love should be the obvious bottom line. Forget silly notions like equality for a moment. Maybe same-sex marriages should be allowed solely because they’re rooted in love between two committed adults.

As is the case with so many hot-button issues, the current debate has become a war of words, removed from what’s really at stake. I think people sometimes forget that what they’re actually arguing about is how different people experience the most beautiful thing in life. I will never understand how an expression of commitment and caring could possibly be a disadvantage for society. Same-sex relationships may not be rooted in Western tradition, but that doesn’t somehow make them a threat to this realm.

Nor will I understand how anyone could be offended by two people’s desire to be a little less alone in this world. Those who quote the Bible to bolster their blindness miss the big picture. They dwell on contrived verses here and there, taking for granted the love and commitment shared by Abraham and Sarah, for instance, or Moses and Zipporah. They entirely ignore the beautiful and erotic Song of Solomon, essentially an extended love poem, which comprises an entire book of the Bible. And when they do see these illustrations of love and loyalty, they view them two-dimensionally, between a man and a woman. But the literal sexuality of these Biblical characters is irrelevant. Comprehending that Isaac was a man and Rebekah was a woman is less important than valuing the love and dedication between them. The Bible ought to be considered an ethical model, not a primitive sex-ed pamphlet. Those who dwell on the biblical definition of “sexual perversion” are missing the point of the bigger themes within the Bible.

As the battle over same-sex marriage continues in the courts, I don’t care about offering any further logical rationale for its legalization. Needless to say, love is not logical. Though there are surely rational grounds for its support, the need to legalize gay marriage must first be realized in the hearts of Americans. This weekend’s wedding reminded me that though marriage is partly about signing a contract, it is mostly a show of love. And in the debate over gay marriage, we should remember that.

Matthew Green can be reached at greenmat@umich.edu.

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