On April 17, Natalia and Frank, central characters in TV’s longest-running soap opera, “Guiding Light,” stood together in the chapel in Springfield.
Natalia was beautiful and demure in her white gown and long veil, a small cross at her throat. Her maid of honor, Olivia, looked equally beautiful and profoundly sensual. Who else but Olivia — Springfield’s scarlet woman — would wear red for a wedding?
Soaps are known for weddings, but unlike at most, the looks of love and longing were not passing between the bride and groom, but between the bride and her maid of honor.
The morning before the wedding, Natalia and Olivia met at the grave of Natalia’s late husband, Gus. Olivia was there talking to Gus, who had been her best friend, about her love for his widow. Olivia got his heart in a transplant after he was killed in a motorcycle accident. Natalia showed up to talk to him about her confused feelings for Olivia. When the two women crossed paths, Olivia finally acknowledged her love for Natalia.
For months, the women have done a dance of repressed desire and deepening love. They could not be more dissimilar. Olivia has long been the bad girl of Springfield. Natalia is a deeply religious Catholic.
It was Natalia’s faith that led her to move in with Olivia and her young daughter, Emma, after Olivia left the hospital. Natalia nursed her back to health. Soon the two were sitting on the sofa together, Natalia’s head on Olivia’s shoulder and vice versa. Then one day Olivia kissed Natalia.
But as Olivia fell in love with Natalia, so did Frank, the earnest cop who was drawn to Natalia’s sweetness. When Frank asked Natalia to marry him, she said yes, denying her feelings for Olivia.
Before the ceremony, when the priest was unable to come, Natalia prayed to God to tell her what to do.
When it came time for Natalia to say her vows, she couldn’t. She ran from the church.
Olivia tracked her down and the two stood together, the love between them palpable. Natalia explained that she could not lie while standing before God. “I can’t tell Frank I love him,” she cried. “I love you!”
While the “Guiding Light” drama was playing out, Sen. John McCain’s former campaign manager, Steve Schmidt, was speaking to Log Cabin Republicans about same-sex marriage. Schmidt argued that opposition to same-sex unions would not only hold the Republican Party back, but could easily marginalize it.
Schmidt urged Republicans to endorse civil unions now and to stop using the Bible as an excuse to ban same-sex marriage.
On “Guiding Light,” Olivia — the more worldly of the two women — is keenly aware of the controversy a relationship between her and Natalia would accrue. How would it impact their children, Emma and Rafe? Would the external stresses be too much for the couple to bear and crush their love for each other?
These very-real conflicts for lesbians and gays are among the reasons marriage has become a locus of the queer civil-rights movement. If Olivia could ask Natalia to marry her, how different would their relationship be? If their community stood behind them, that support would allow their already-deep love to flourish. Natalia shouldn’t be forced to give up her dream of marriage and family simply because she has fallen in love with another woman.
The concomitant clarity of a soap opera and a Republican strategist on one of the key social issues of the day resonates: Marriage should be a choice for everyone based on love and commitment. Politics should be withdrawn from the discourse all together.