Waldlaw Blog

Thursday, November 06, 2008

What a Ride It's Been!

I tried to blog yesterday, but the words wouldn't come. I was too ... elated ... exhausted ... disappointed ... confused .... Today, I am ready to share some of what I have figured out in the 36 hours since we elected Barrack Hussein Obama the next President of the United States and since California passed Prop 8, thereby eliminating the right of same-sex couples to marry, at least for this moment. First, a couple of practical updates: For those of you who married before polls closed on November 4, YOU ARE STILL MARRIED. Don't let anyone tell you differently. There was nothing in the language of Prop 8 that addressed the issue of retroactivity, since when Prop 8 was qualified for the ballot same-sex marriage had not yet been legalized in California. Our Attorney General has publicly stated he will protect your marriages, and even though the Yes on 8 folks are taking the position that passage of Prop 8 invalidated your marriages, they are not yet pursuing this position in court. So ACT MARRIED. Be as public and proud as you were on Tuesday. As Molly McKay said yesterday, on the steps of San Francisco's City Hall during the candlelight vigil, love loudly and with dignity. Be "love warriors." Wear your wedding rings with pride, and demand respect for your marriage as you would have if Prop 8 had been defeated. We will win this fight. Just not today. As far as Prop 8 itself goes, 3 lawsuits have already been filed. We are going straight to the Supreme Court, and while I haven't read the briefs my understanding of the argument is this: it changes the fundamental nature of our Constitution to allow the majority to vote to deny fundamental rights to a protected minority (which we are, by virtue of the Supreme Court's decision in the marriage case which explicitly named sexual orientation as a "suspect category" that merits special protection, along with race and religion). Such a fundamental change to our constitutional system of government cannot be made by a simple majority vote. We have brilliant lawyers working for us. 5 Million Californians voted for our families. Don't give up hope. Here's the part that kills me: On Tuesday at 8:05 p.m., I stood in my friends Kevin and David's living room in tears, watching as Barack Hussein Obama was declared the next President of the United States. The room was full, and there wasn't a dry eye in the house. We had no doubt that we were watching history. And here is who we were: a room full of devoted gay couples and our children; Black, Brown, Asian, Latino and Caucasian; Christian, Jewish and Buddhist. We were all in our late 40's and early 50's -- many of us old enough to remember when JFK was gunned down, when Martin Luther King was gunned down, when Bobby Kennedy was gunned down.... We hadn't felt the kind of hope we felt on Tuesday night in a long time -- maybe not ever -- and I wanted to revel in it. Instead, as news of Prop 8's projected victory trickled in, the mood so quickly soured to what can only be described as bittersweet. Wondrous but also disappointing. Complex, when simple joy had, for once, seemed possible. This is an amazing, historic moment in so many ways. Here are a few vignettes from my own experience of the last 36 hours. Please add your own.... I walked out of the house yesterday afternoon and almost ran into my neighbor Don, who was parking his car. He is 93 years old, retired military. Married forever. Almost deaf. We have never once spoken about marriage equality. He came right up to me, looking sad, and said "We lost." Just that. It took me a moment to realize he was talking about Prop 8. His use of the word "we" stays with me as a symbol of how much we have accomplished. My partner flew to Costa Rica late Tuesday night. She flew on Taca -- the Salvadoran airline. She sends me this note this morning: "In and around my attempts to sleep on the plane I was surrounded by lots of conversation about the rightness of Obama having been elected, and the rightness of Prop 8 having passed, all in Spanish, all Latinos, some US Citizens, travelling to countries throughout Latin America. The taxi driver this morning [in San Jose, Costa Rica] immediately asked if I had voted for Obama, and was thrilled that I had, and said 'He gives us all hope that anything is possible. After all, for someone with his background and history to become the President of the United States ... well it just gives us all hope that anyone can be President if they go for it ... anything is possible.'" That is the experience the world is having of our election. We should be very proud. And that is also evidence that in some communities, particularly deeply Catholic communities, and probably many immigrant communities, the concept of same-sex couples being allowed to marry remains completely foreign and disconnected from other "progressive" politics. I called my friend Wendy to get help with kid logistics for the weekend. She was furious. "What don't people understand?!" she demanded. She then pointed out that she is married to a man who is from Thailand, and her own marriage would have been illegal 50 years ago. It was the court that gave her the right to marry her husband, even though he is of a different race. She is completely offended by the passage of Prop 8, as if it had been about her. And she is not being quiet about it. My younger son, who has taken this fight very seriously, as I have noted before in this blog, is jubilant about Obama. He is stoic about Prop 8. He knows we will win. He is grateful to know that only one of the 9 Bay Area counties supported Prop 8. He is impressed that 5 Million Californians voted for equality for our family. As he says, "that's a lot of people!" He has learned important lessons about the political process in the past weeks, although I'm still not sure which ones.... As I wrote to my partner yesterday morning, in my own bleary-eyed post-election-night haze: "I still can’t believe that the President Elect of the United States is a brown man, the son of a Kenyan and a Kansan, raised in Hawaii by his grandparents, named Barack Hussein Obama. If that is possible, what isn’t??!!" Si se puede. Yes we can.


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