Dan Savage's second memoir, The Commitment - not to be confused with the band from the eponymous, early 90's movie, The Commitments - is proving to be one compelling read. At first it felt a bit redundant of his first memoir, The Kid; many of the stories were retold as shorter anecdotes. My second reaction to this book was: okay, I get it, you're gay and have no interest in gay marriage even though you're in a committed relationship with an adopted child; stop complaining about your overly-supportive family nagging you to tie the knot. But somewhere in the middle of the memoir, Savage takes a serious look at marriages in his own family and delves head-first into the politics surrounding gay matrimony. This would be the middle section, "The Engagement". Here, Savage compares grandparent, parent, and sibling stories - none of which are typical love stories, or even typical marriage stories - to the right wing myth of the sanctity of heterosexual marriage. Savage avoids getting all Keith Oberman, but he does make impassioned observations. In one case, his Republican father tries to explain to him that conservatives don't really have anything against the gay population. Rather, his cynical argument goes, they're just playing to the bigoted instincts of their base to get voters to the polls. Savage's partner Terry pipes into the conversation at this point to remind his dad that these same get-out-the-vote gestures are also stripping tax-paying citizens of the rights straight, married couples take for granted.
While Savage is conflicted and mostly skeptical about marriage, even going as far as applying for a marriage license with his lesbian friend Amy and throwing a sham wedding ceremony with nearly naked men dressed as winged tutti and a drag queen playing the part of sobbing mom, he believes strongly that the gay marriage movement is a civil rights movement. I already agreed with Savage's opinion before picking up the book, a book surprisingly five years old. As the debate of gay marriage continues to hit headlines and stranger-than-strange Iowa legalizes same-sex marriage just this year, I can't help but wonder why The Commitment isn't a best-seller. It is timely, funny, honest, passionate and reasonably argued. (Plus, there is a very tender moment with a birthday cake fetishist.)