When toddlers attack

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Take that, haters

Nearly two years ago, the two of us joined 18,000 other gay and lesbian couples who tied the knot in California. Okay, actually, we did it in Spain and we had it planned before a lawsuit by three very effective civil rights organizations made it legal where we actually lived, but still -- we were part of very heady summer.

Comprehensive domestic partnership, providing essentially all the rights and responsibilities of marriage without the name, has been legal in the state since 2005. We registered in 2007, when A needed to add me to the vision insurance plan he receives through his employer. The process works like this: you go stand in line at the Secretary of State's office in between the man opening a muffler shop and the woman opening a nail salon. You fill turn in a couple of notarized forms that you share a residence and expenses and have been together for at least six months, sit for twenty minutes or so in a fiberglass chair that screams "institutional," and the clerk returns with a certificate of domestic partnership on heavy paper and a lovely embossed official seal of the State of California (which features a giant amazon queen and a tiny grizzly bear -- I've never been sure if the bear is supposed to be tiny or in the very near foreground), "suitable for framing." A handshake, and you're on you're way to the rest of your life, just like that. It's about as romantic as the Department of Motor Vehicles, but more efficient.

The day we "DPed," we were joined by my mom, my aunt and their cousin Anita for a brunch in West Hollywood. It was pleasant, but suffice it to say no one calls to congratulate us on the anniversary of our domestic partnership. We don't remember the date ourselves.

Flash forward a year to our wedding: with the dollar at its weakest in years against the euro and airfares nearly double what they'd been the summer before, 15 of our friends and my family made the trip to Europe; 50 of A's family were on hand. And even though nobody would have admitted to treating us differently beforehand, after the wedding it was obvious our standing as a couple had increased in everyone's eyes, from A's dad saying to me "Yeso! (he can't pronounce my name, so this is a close Spanish approximation. It happens to mean "plaster"), ahora eres parte de la familia" ("now you're part of the family") to the total strangers having a picnic on the beach who yelled "que vivan los novios!" when we passed on the sand, dressed in suits, to have our photo taken by the waves. No one knows what civil unions are, but marriage means something universal. Sure, like civil unions or domestic partnerships, it's a civil contract between two people that you'll take care of each other, assume each other's debts, and inherit each other's property... but unlike those other arrangements, it carries an enormous significance to society at large that you and your partner constitute a family.


That's why it's been so interesting to watch backers of Proposition 8, where seven million Californians voted to divorce the two of us and bar any other lesbian and gay couples from civil marriage, as they come up with different reasons for why two men or two women marrying will cause grown men to weep, horses to spook and bunnies to eat their young (they failed at divorcing the already married couples). During the campaign itself, it was "WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?!?," where they successfully convinced 52 percent of voters that allowing us to marry would confer the message to their children that we're basically okay as human beings. Then, their best argument seems to have been "we don't know." What sort of horrors will befall society if Adam and Steve can marry? It's an experiment! We just DON'T KNOW!"

That argument didn't go over so well when they recently tried it on Judge Vaughn Walker in Perry v. Schwarzenegger the federal legal challenge to Prop 8 that wrapped up last week. So then they tried the "no one will have babies if we weaken the link between marriage and procreation" thing.

This was Ted Olson's response, just posted on the website of the American Foundation for Equal Rights:

The Supreme Court has said in -- I counted 14 cases
going back to 1888, 122 years. And these are the words of all
of those Supreme Court decisions about what marriage is. And I
set forth this distinction between what the plaintiffs have
called it and what the Supreme Court has called it.
The Supreme Court has said that: Marriage is the
most important relation in life. Now that's being withheld
from the plaintiffs. It is the foundation of society. It is
essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness. It's a right of
privacy older than the Bill of Rights and older than our
political parties. One of the liberties protected by the Due
Process Clause. A right of intimacy to the degree of being
sacred. And a liberty right equally available to a person in a
homosexual relationship as to heterosexual persons. That's the
Lawrence vs. Texas case.
Marriage, the Supreme Court has said again and again,
is a component of liberty, privacy, association, spirituality
and autonomy. It is a right possessed by persons of different
races, by persons in prison, and by individuals who are
delinquent in paying child support.
It is the right of individuals, not an indulgence
dispensed by the State of California, or any state, to favored
classes of citizens which could easily be withdrawn if the
state were to change its mind about procreation. In other
words, it is a right belonging to Californians, to persons. It
is not a right belonging to the State of California.
And the right to marry, to choose to marry, has never
been conditioned on or tied to procreation. It hardly could be
rooted in the state's interest in procreation, since the right
to marry, in Supreme Court cases, has been invoked sustaining
the right to contraceptives, to divorce, and just a few years
ago in that Lawrence case, to homosexuals.

Take that, haters.

For a look at the full transcript of closing arguments, go here: http://www.equalrightsfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Perry-Vol-13-6-16-10-Amended.pdf


  1. Iason 8-)

    Good post in the spirit of Pride Month!

    I think we also just have to put things in perspective. There is so much work that needs to be done for gay civil rights, but look how far we have come since the dark days of the AIDS crisis, where someone like President Reagan refused to acknowledge what was going on until well into his third year as President. (and then, rumour has it, he acted only because Nancy had a cow when they learned their good friend Rock was dying of the disease and FORCED him to discuss the crisis)

    My point is it takes a tsunami to change people's way of thinking. We happen to find ourselves in a country where religion has made a comeback in many pockets and groups, and the agenda of these religious groups is usually contrary to gay civil rights. i.e. the Mormans and Hispanics in Cali who were a big chunk of the seven million. Hopefully this is just a passing phase. I think it is. Once people realize that religion does nothing but suppress people, they will react and we will see less resistance.

    Isn't this what happened in Espana? Who would have thought that the Spaniards, probably the staunchest Catholic country in Europe, would go the other extreme in allowing gay marriage. Decades of repression by Franco and his support from the Catholic church backfired, and in a BIG WAY! Most Spaniards today make a clear distinction between their secular values and spiritual values, as it should be. And as you probably know the Catholic church there does not try to meddle in social politics anymore, fearing the loss of even more believers...

    Same will happen here, but it might take a while. But we do know that the generation under 30 is overwhelmingly in favor of gay rights and gay marriage, so as this group matures and becomes the policymakers then gay marriage will be unopposed. We might be pretty old when that day comes but at least our kids will reap the benefits of a more open society. In fact, they will probably be thinking "what the hell was all the fuss about with our parent's generation"?

  2. Absolutely. I think Prop 8 was a good slap in the face to a lot of people who had become far too complacent, but I've never understood the people who condemned the LGBT civil rights organizations that won marriage in the first place (and a whole lot of other legal battles) because they were unsuccessful in defeating Prop 8 in court, which was a whole other legal battle. I try to remind people that, in spite of Prop 8, California's laws on the whole do not suck. We have:

    Laws that protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people from discrimination in housing, employment and public accomodations.

    An LGBT hate crimes law.

    And yes, comprehensive domestic partnership, which gives us on paper everything marriage does (minus some discriminatory taxation issues) except the name itself.

    Ten years ago we would have been thrilled. That's pretty rapid progress. It's not enough, especially since A and I need the immigration rights that come with federal recognition so I can sponsor him for permanent residency. But hey, it's a start. Actually, it's more than a start; it's most of the way there.

  3. You go guys! Wonderful post.