Right-Wing Shenanigans

What a couple of weeks this has been! The dialogue about same-sex marriage has grown more and more fierce as the right clamors to grab this issue and force it into the minds of people who would rather worry about the economy and the continuing war in Iraq. With the introduction into congress of the Federal Marriage Act and President Bush going on national television to proclaim his support for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as only between a man and a woman, the Republican Party has gone on record defining themselves as the the party that hates GLBT people.

We watched Larry King last night host a debate with Mayor Gavin Newsom (our new hero!), “actor/producer/activist” Chad Allen, Rev. John MacArthur, and Rep. Marilym Musgrave (R-CO). There were great moments and horrifying ones. The Mayor was terrific as usual, eloquent and pointed. The Colorado congresswoman looked like she just got back from Stepford, and harped continually on where we might go next – polygamy, incest, and worse. She showed that she got an “A” in Fear Tactics 101 at Republican University, by taking the current situation and taking it to its illogical conclusion. Chad Allen was very passionate as the one gay representative that just wants the basic human condition – a relationship that is supported and acknowledged by the community. The reverend tried to justify everything with Bible verses, and came off like an old poop. Larry showed many times which side he was on as he hounded the two conservative panelists on how gay marriage could possibly be as horrible as they make it sound. What was most encouraging was the questions from viewer calls, which were mostly on our side. One guy claimed to be a dyed-in-the-wool Republican who was going to do everything he could to get Bush out office. The best call was from a “disgruntled Democrat” schoolteacher in Southern California who asked the Mayor how to get our current Presidential candidates to finally get up the nerve to say they were for gay marriage.

What we want to say, more than anything, is that amending the Constitution with this amendment is a huge step backward. Our country already has a history of trying to legislate morality and having it backfire. The 18th Amendment did just that by prohibiting the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors. The amendment was ratified in 1919 and went into effect in 1920. The “Prohibition Years” were full of speakeasies and gin joints, so that people could have their martinis. Many people made money during those years, but it was all based on illegal activity. Only certain wineries, including many in California, that produced wine for medicinal purposes, were able to continue their operations. The 18th Amendment was repealed when the 21st Amendment was introduced and ratified in 1933. Prohibition was a failed attempt at legislating morality, and this time is no different.

If the country were to amend the Constitution against same-sex marriage, what would be next? (To borrow some principles from Fear Tactics 101.) Would they ban marriage between a man and a woman who are more than 10 years different in their age? What about banning marriages that are made under duress because the woman is pregnant? We should also ban marriages that are arranged by someone other than the couple being married. Heck, we should ban any marriage that doesn’t fit into the strict boundaries that the Republican Party dictates!!!

Surely there is a compromise solution. Put marriage back in the churches, where it belongs. Civil marriages should be redefined using a different word, so that people can get the legal benefits of their relationship without the quagmire that the word “marriage” seems to dig up. If we let the Republicans dictate how we are supposed to think and feel, then we as society will be much worse off than what the Republicans claim will happen if same-sex marriage is legalized.

The folks at DontAmend.com have a petition and email list if you want to get more involved. Let’s have the Constitution be the plow that breaks up discrimination, rather than codifies it – expanding our basic human rights and preserving our equal protection!

Wedding Bells

The two of us got married on Friday, along with about 1000 of our closest friends!

Seriously, this was probably one of the most significant experiences of our lives together. It was civil disobedience and a gesture of love combined, with an impact that will be felt for a very long time. While we were united in love back in 2000, this time it felt a little different – not necessarily more real, but more official. And although this marriage may not be legal outside the city limits, we have a marriage license printed on official, multicolor State of California paper that is as genuine and beautiful as you could imagine.

This all started on Thursday morning, when Steve Wylie got an email from the Wells Fargo GLBT employees group saying that the first gay wedding had been performed at City Hall. Everyone who got the email just gasped in disbelief and delight! Could this be true? The Chronicle confirmed the great news that Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, who have been together as a couple for 51 years, were married. We could not think of a more appropriate couple to be the first.

The two of us talked later that day about whether we should try to get to City Hall on Friday. Steve Gibson called his supervisor to see if it would be possible for him to take the day off, and why. She said supportively, “You do what you have to do!” That was all it took. Steve Wylie called his boss to say that events at City Hall might keep him away from work on Friday. So by 8am, we were heading up to the City Hall steps to join what we expected to be many, many people all with the same idea.

After passing the security checkpoint (with a hearty “Congratulations” from the security guard), we followed the line of people all heading toward the County Clerk’s office. The line was long but not horrible. We filled out our application form and waited as we moved toward the clerk’s office door. At around 9, Steve Wylie’s boss Nathan called, saying “How can I get in on this?” We said that we needed a witness and to come on down! At about 9:45, we started seeing people from my office come over to greet us in line. By the time we were done, there were 16 people from Steve’s office there to witness the event. It was so incredible to have so much support from colleagues at work!

It took about two hours, but finally we were inside. We handed over the form along with our check for $82. The woman who helped us process our form was wonderful – so helpful and supportive. She reminded us that if we got married immediately, we could then take the license over to the Recorder’s office for immediate recording. We raised our right hands to swear that we were truthful on the form, and then walked out of the office holding the license up high, as many other couples had done, to the cheers and applause of everyone still in line.

We headed up to the rotunda, to join another short line. We could see Steve’s co-workers at the top of the steps. They were ready for us. After a couple of minutes, someone came down to get us. We went up to the top of the steps, right in the center, and were immediately surrounded by all our friends. The deputy marriage commissioner, a charming Asian man, had a little trouble with the words of the ceremony. He did Steve Gibson’s vows, and then looked at Steve Wylie for a second “I do” without going through the vows a second time. The rings went a little more smoothly, but then at the end he pronounced us “husband and wife, spouses for life.” That wasn’t exactly how it was supposed to go, but it was close enough. We kissed and hugged to the applause of our friends. It was such a great feeling to be really married! It was only then that we noticed all the cameras, including a CNN camera that had filmed at least part of our service. Saundra handed us a beautiful bouquet of flowers. Nathan served as our official witness and signed the license. We signed the souvenir license and thanked the commissioner.

Rusty Dornin, a CNN correspondent, then asked if we would mind talking for a couple minutes. She asked us some questions like how long we had waited in line, did we feel a certain urgency in coming to City Hall today, and why did we feel it was so important to be part of this event. We answered her questions, feeling slightly dazed by all the excitement, and then walked down the stairs as spouses for life!

We made one last stop at the recorder’s office and paid an additional $13 for one official copy of the marriage license. The license was recorded, and then photocopied on that beautiful State of California paper and handed over to us. We were now officially on record in City Hall as a married couple. Only time will tell what that means in the rest of the world.

We did show up on CNN later that afternoon. In a very brief clip shown on “Anderson Cooper 360,” Rusty Dornin talked about all the events at City Hall, and showed the video of us thanking the marriage commissioner. The only part of the interview shown was to support her contention that the gay couples who went that day felt a great urgency to get married, with Steve Gibson emphasizing that we knew we had to go to City Hall that day. Our 15 minutes of fame was reduced to a 15-second sound bite! At least we made it on the national news!

There is also a photo on the Chronicle website that shows us waiting in line. Steve Wylie is the tall guy in the upper-right corner with the tan jacket. We also posted some photos of our own, including some that Steve’s coworker Jason took during the ceremony. Friday evening, we attended the Mayor’s reception for all the couples who had gotten married so far. When we left the reception at 7:30, there were still people waiting in line at the Clerk’s office. We asked one couple who was waiting to have Assemblyman Mark Leno perform their ceremony how long they waited in line, and they said “Four hours!” We were very thankful that we had arrived so early.

We have to offer our eternal gratitude to all the people who worked at City Hall that day and through the weekend. Many people worked a lot of overtime, much of it on a volunteer basis, so that so many couples could get married. On Monday night, the news reported that 2,464 couples had tied the knot since Thursday.

Friday the 13th will never feel unlucky again.