It’s been a few months now since the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality. The predicted wrath of God hasn’t come crashing down on us. Nor did the histrionics of evangelical preachers threatening to self-immolate come to pass.
Of course, there are a few stalwarts who are refusing to do the job to which they were elected because somehow their religious freedoms would be violated by handing a marriage certificate to a couple of lesbians. Oh, and naturally, the Republican presidential candidates are tripping over themselves to denounce the SCOTUS decision as the end of world.
Pandering to their fringe right wing, they promise a Constitutional Amendment defining marriage as “between one man and one woman,” while making such outrageous comments about the Court’s role that it makes people wonder if they ever took a high school civics class.
But for the rest of the country life continues uninterrupted.
We have one man to thank for marriage equality. It’s not Justice Kennedy (although he and the four “liberal” judges rightly deserve our unending gratitude); it’s California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom. It was he who sparked the revolution that ended in the SCOTUS decision.
So, if I may, I submit this open letter to Gavin Newsom.
Dear Mr. Lieutenant Governor,
In February of 2004, as Mayor of San Francisco, you decreed that lesbian women and gay men living or working in the City could lawfully marry. Critics within your own party assailed you. Republicans used the move to galvanize their base during a tough presidential re-election campaign by cramming state Constitutional Amendments banning same-gender marriage on ballots. Utah’s was Amendment 3.
By the time the California state Supreme Court halted the marriages a month later, nearly 4,100 couples had married. Kelly and I were one of them. As a matter of fact, we were among the last dozen or so couples married on March 11 before the Court ended it.
Actually, marriage wasn’t something we really concerned ourselves with. We had taken all the legal precautions to protect ourselves, so what difference would a piece of paper make? Then one evening, shortly after the marriages began, we were watching the news and saw a lesbian couple descending the grand staircase in City Hall. One of the women was carrying a child. In unison, Kelly and I turned to look at our son sitting in his high chair smiling at us. Instinctively we knew that we had to get married.
Our logic was simple: your decree would be overturned, and being married wasn’t going to change how we felt about each other anyway. But being parents added a new sense of duty to wed. We didn’t want Gus one day to ask why we hadn’t married when we had had the chance, why he couldn’t have legally wed parents like everyone else.
Our small part of history on that day in March was captured forever by the news media. After the fact, we learned footage of the two men with the baby descending the grand staircase was apparently aired throughout the day. But my memories of that day were about the officiant telling us he had married his partner of over 30 years, how the people in City Hall erupted into applause when we walked down the staircase, and the sweet way my friend Teresa — our witness — cried tears of joy.
But the memory I will always cherish the most was when I glanced over at Gus in Kelly’s arms and saw he was grinning from ear-to-ear.
On behalf of all Americans and specifically the LGBT community, thank you, Gavin Newsom, for giving us marriage equality!