I’m in the middle of a week long odyssey to Arkansas and New Orleans on behalf of the day job. On Friday night, I had dinner with some colleagues in a little restaurant called Doe’s Eat Place. The food and ambiance were good, but what got me thinking about politics weren’t the pictures of Clinton and company all over the walls – it was the conversation.
As we started talking about politics, one of the guys at the table (we’ll call him Dan*) made a joke that the California Supreme Court decision was going to end up costing him north of $10,000. We all asked what me meant and he proceeded to explain.
In 2004, Dan and his partner were watching coverage of the San Francisco Mayor allowing gay couples to marry. They saw images of the lines around the block waiting for marriage licenses, and decided to hop a flight the next morning to SF to marry. They had been together for 9 years at this point.
As they were making arrangements, Dan called his mom to tell her what they were doing. She immediately booked a flight to California – as did his brother, and father and various other family members. His brother was the first to arrive in San Francisco. Dan’s brother picked up his own brother-in-law and they headed to city hall to hold a place in line. As they stood there waiting, the couples around them asked how long they had been together. They joked, “Since 9 o’clock this morning.” After explaining, they chatted about the couples around them.
Dan arrived in San Fran and over the next few hours, family from all over arrived and began waiting with them. Due to a technical limitation, the city was only able to issue 400 marriage licenses per day. They soon ran out. Dan and his partner were still in line. They and the gathered family stood in line outside city hall for 28 hours, waiting for another opportunity the next day.
The next afternoon they made it in to city hall, got their license, were immediately married by some city official. After getting the license certified, they walked out the door and were showered by strangers who had gathered outside to shower the newly married couples exiting with rice and flowers.
Six months later, the court vacated his marriage.
While they still have their marriage certificate, it legally means nothing. The recent ruling did not reinstate those marriages conducted in 2004.
So now they’re planning to do it all again. In Dan’s words, they are doing so because it is important to them to have some permanent record that they meant more to each other than simply being co-signers on a mortgage.
So here’s what the GOP doesn’t get. For every member of the base opposed to gay marriage, there are independent, soft D and soft R voters who will hear stories like this and get it. They will listen to a friend recount their story of happiness and love. They will tell stories of joyous weddings that rival those any boy-girl combo.
When they hear these stories, these mainstream voters will understand that for two people in love, marriage means more than owning property or getting health benefits. They will see that heterosexuals do not have an exclusive on feelings. They’ll think about their own wedding day and realize what that moment meant to them. They will never again question the motives of two people in love wanting to have it recorded in the annals of our community histories.
Slowly, but surely, the tide will turn against the religious zealotry that makes the absurd argument that somehow, a gay marriage makes mine less meaningful. In the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, the GOP clung to racism to win elections, and has only recently apologized for the error of its past. It will, someday in the future, make a similar apology to those it fought so hard for preventing the recognition of relationships just as real and deep as their own.
* I’ve changed my colleague’s name because I did not ask his permission to retell his story. While I am sure he would not mind, I do not want to identify him absent that approval.