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I don't mind being a bridesmaid. I think it's fun to be involved with the wedding and to witness two people who think so much of one another that they decide to pledge their love and spend the rest of their lives together.

But lately I've been pondering the ever-popular cliche, "always a bridesmaid, never a bride." This saying may be a casual quip for some single women out there still searching for the perfect man, but for me it's a reality. I may never even have the opportunity to consider marriage because of the fact that I am gay.

Even before the topic of gay marriage came to the forefront of politics in our country, I wondered about the possibility of spending my life with someone. I, like many people, long to meet that one special person whom I can share the good and the bad with, laugh and cry with, and just simply exist with.

I constantly read the stories and weigh the arguments. Unlike some other homosexuals, I understand the other side. My father, after all, is a devout conservative, and gay marriage is an oxymoron that he just cannot seem to wrap his mind around. I can understand why. His whole life he has been taught to believe in the sacred value of a union between a man and a woman only.

The concept of a man and a man or a woman and a woman exchanging vows of marriage is foreign to him and challenges his entire worldview. I understand his side and I accept his side, but that doesn't mean that I agree with it.

To say that gay marriage will lessen the sanctity of the bond that exists between a man and a woman is ridiculous. That has already been accomplished by people who commit adultery, who have been married three or four times and who divorce despite the "for better or worse" promise made at the altar.

Flip a coin. That is what the sacred bond of marriage has been reduced to in this country. Every time someone says, "I do," there is a 50 percent chance that the marriage will end in a divorce. I do not agree with anyone, heterosexual or homosexual, making a sacred commitment and then not taking it seriously.

Gay marriage will not and cannot change this marriage cycle that has already been set in motion. What gay marriage will do is give people like me an option. If or when I meet someone I want to express my love for and share my life with, I can. That is all I want -- the option.

It doesn't even have to be called marriage. All I want is to have the same legal rights, such as being able to have my partner on my health insurance and to protect our finances should something happen to me. I don't think that is too much to ask for, not when it is something that is based on the practicality of everyday life.

A friend of mine was complaining the other day that her parents and relatives were putting pressure on her and her boyfriend to get married because they had been dating for quite some time. At first I said nothing. After a moment, she asked me what I thought.

"At least you have the option," I told her. Then I added, "But if you ever do get married, you can count on me to be a bridesmaid."

LYNDSEY D'ARCANGELO lives in Hamburg.