During the past 37 years (since the defeat of Proposition 6) we came out and we thrived amongst our friends, families, neighbors and co-workers; we are taking our place amongst the interwoven threads forming our country’s fabric. And we advocated for our rights. And we got a little help from our friends. In 2004, the newly elected Mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom directed city officials to begin issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples. And for a brief time same sex couples were married in San Francisco. Something was coming, coming out. “Hope is never silent,” said Harvey.
Miraculously, in June 2015, Justice Anthony Kennedy writing the majority opinion for the Supreme Court, made same-sex marriage a right nationwide “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
Harvey said “coming out is the most political thing you can do.”
Summer is typically the time for blockbuster movies and their sequels: Iron Man, Star Trek, X-Men; the list goes on. But this summer, you don’t need to go to the movies to participate in blockbusters and their sequels. History it seems is a series of blockbuster events with sequels, taking the form of declarations, laws, court-decisions, executive-orders, opinion-pages, blogs, marches, rallies, and the unfortunate loss of dialogue manifesting itself as gridlock, filibuster or most regretfully as violence and battlegrounds on the streets where we work and live.
Several anniversaries of blockbuster events concerning freedom, justice, and rights in our nation’s history occur this summer; some are annual rituals, others are commemorations of significant anniversaries. Juneteenth celebrated annually on June 19 commemorates the day slavery was abolished in Texas in 1865 as a result of Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. The Stonewall Riots in New York’s Greenwich Village on June 28, 1969 were a series of spontaneous and sometimes violent demonstrations by members of the gay community (many of whom were angry and fed-up drag queens) protesting a police raid on gay bars. As a result gay rights organizations and newspapers were formed in New York and nationwide seeking civil rights for gay Americans. As a result, the first gay pride march was established in 1970, an event celebrated annually in cities throughout the United States and the world. July 1 – July 3, 2013 was the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg considered by many historians to be the turning point in the Civil War, whose origins lay in contentions over the abolition or extension of slavery in the United States. July 4th is of course our annual commemoration of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence proclaiming all men are created equal, a statement universally adopted as human rights. On August 28th, our country will commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom where in 1963 more than 300,000 Americans rallied at the Lincoln Memorial calling for civil and economic rights for African Americans; this march is credited for the passage of the Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Voting Rights Act (1965).
This summer has brought several poignant sequels to these litany of History blockbusters. On June 25, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, originally passed by Congress and signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson aimed at eliminating various legal strategies to prevent African Americans and other minorities from voting by preventing racial gerrymandering among other actions. The Court’s decision freed nine states mostly in the South, to change their election laws without federal approval. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissenting from the bench declared “the nation’s commitment to justice had been dis-served” Shortly after the decision, the State of Texas announced the voter identification law would be in effect immediately and that redistricting maps would no longer need approval.
The blockbuster historical events and their sequels continue. Will we take part? To be measured, History must be made, and each of us has a role in History making. History can be made by forming our opinions through reading, thinking, and by voicing our opinions through word and deed. August 28th, 2013, Washington, D.C. will host the the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Conferences and a rally will be held and a grassroots civil rights movement will be launched at 3PM that day called “63 Minutes of Peace.” 3PM was chosen, because that was the time Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his famous speech “I Have a Dream.” The idea is to take 63 minutes of your day to volunteer to help change someone’s world, be it mentoring a young person, aiding a homeless person, or participating in voter registration.” So, in some cases we have made progress, and in others, there is much work remaining to be done. In the end, we must progress forward; we must voice our opinions and take action to achieve freedom, justice, and rights for all persons.
Celebrating the legalization of gay marriage in Vermont, Ben and Jerry’s ice cream makers have for the month of September renamed their popular ‘Chubby Hubby’ flavor ‘Hubby Hubby.’ I completely understand why ‘Wifey, Wifey’ wasn’t an option and I will forgive them for my sadness at this momentary gender exclusion. So three cheers for Ben and Jerry’s and pass me that pint of Cherry Garcia! (lovingly named in honor of the late Jerry Garcia legendary guitarist of the Grateful Dead). In August, my wife and I celebrated our one year anniversary as a married couple — one of the 18,000 or so couples that tied the knot when gay marriage was briefly legal in California. Our anniversary was a very special occasion graced with champagne and a piece of the wedding cake. For our wedding announcement, we used a watercolor I painted of Isola Bella in Taormina, Sicily
the beautiful place where we celebrated our 20th anniversary as a couple. So though we’ve only legally been married in California for just over a year, we’ve been a couple for nearly twenty-five wonderful years. Some day in the future, gay marriage will be the norm in our country, and not the exception or blasphemy as some see it today.
There is that wonderful saying “as California goes, so goes the country,” which in my mind translates as California sets the trends and others follow a good idea. But that hasn’t always been the case. Many of the leading abolitionists fighting to end the practice of slavery in the United States were from New England including Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Lloyd Garrison, Henry David Thoreau and John Greenleaf Whittier. Interesting coincidence but Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont — all New England states — have legalized gay marriage. Plucky Iowa has too, but that’s another longitude. Slavery was an inhuman practice codified in the Constitutional Convention of 1787, but the rhetoric of the New England abolitionists served as the country’s conscience arguing slavery must end, and all must be free and equal. Equality under the law is a fundamental freedom was the argument against Proposition 8 heard by the California Supreme Court. While the court upheld Proposition 8 ending gay marriage in my state, the fight will continue here in California and throughout our country. Equality is one of those fine old New England traditions that runs deep. I look forward to the day I can say ” as New England goes, so goes the country.”