One writer’s personal journey to marriage, love, and acceptance, and how he came to write about it all.
Today’s the one-year anniversary of the US Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling. I’m proud to be part of “A More Perfect Union”, a new anthology inspired by that day. Writing my story for this anthology made me reflect on the past, present, and future. So we won marriage... what now?
And how did we get here?
April 20th, 1992
The day my husband Mark and I met, the idea that we might legally marry seemed as likely as someday having a black president. Bill Clinton opened that door a little, but it was firmly slammed shut when Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). But those few months in-between were a heady time.
I was 24, and it was Clinton who gave me the courage to come out.
We didn’t personally engage in the marriage fight until 2003, when Mark we created an LGBT wedding directory and started attending rallies. In the meantime, state by state, marriage bans were put into place.
March 10th, 2004
When Gavin Newsom opened the doors of the San Francisco city clerk’s office to us, celebration reigned.
Mark and I had one question, “Will it count?” We went back and forth. When our parents got married, “Will it count?” was never a concern. But for us? We loved each other and planned to marry when it was finally legal. But would it count?
We said yes.
Though the clerk’s office had been booked for weeks, there was an opening the next day. It felt meant to be. We promised our parents to do this again “for real” later.
Mostly, I remember how normal it all felt. What a wonderful word “normal” can be.
Two beautiful strangers acted as our witness and officiant. When we said “I Do” under City Hall’s great dome, as San Francisco recognized us, I learned the difference between a “domestic partnership” and a marriage.
Two hours later, the Court called a halt to the weddings, and later invalidated our license. It didn’t “count”, after all.
And yet it did.
January 1, 2008
Four years later, Mark and I started the Gay Marriage Watch blog—the term “marriage equality” didn’t exist yet.
We were excited about a young candidate from Illinois named Barack Obama, and we went all out for him.
On June 16th, the California Supreme Court, which four years earlier had taken away our license, ruled that we could get married. I was elated—it was validation, vindication, and hope.
The ruling poured fuel on Prop 8’s hateful fire, and soon the ads started. Mayor Newsom, sneering “whether you like it or not”, trampled all over our own ineffective commercials. The proposition’s poll numbers climbed from 42% to 48%, and the lawns in our town were awash in a sea of taunting yellow signs.
I’d get up at three AM to write an editorial against Prop 8 on the blog, just to get the anger, fear and sadness out.
We were suddenly back there again. Marry now, or risk losing the chance? Just three weeks before the election, we agonized over over gnocchi and French fries about not having the wedding we wanted.
“What if we invited our parents…” I asked, “…and made it real?”
Mark’s mom and my dad said they would come.
My mom had supported me from the day I came out, but there was always that… pause, when we talked about gay issues. Now she simply said “yes”. The pause was gone.
In a mad rush to beat the election, we found an officiant, a violinist, and a photographer, but we didn’t have a place. Then we found it, a covered restaurant patio overlooking the Bay Bridge.
As our day drew closer, the rain forecast went from 20% to 100%, with the heaviest rain to fall as we said our vows. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. “It’s lucky if it rains on your wedding day,” Mark said with a grin.
I laughed. And he was right.
So many memories. The violinist playing “The Four Seasons”. The officiant telling us to breathe, then stumbling, smiling when I repeated “breathe.” My father’s reading, our mothers handing us candles. The words that sealed our bond.
The warm, perfect feeling of this is right. And the rain, shutting out the rest of the city until it was just us.
When it was all over, we cried. Yes, there’s been a lot of crying.
As queer kids, we saw people marry on TV, movies and in real life, but we knew we’d never have that perfect day ourselves, but things can change in an instant.
After seventeen years together, it was the perfect day.
November 4th, 2008
Three days later, change was in the air. I still remember when Obama won, and when prop 8 passed less than an hour later. It felt like an ending, a painful repudiation of everything we’d fought for.
But it wasn’t. It was a beginning. The pain became a catalyst for a new idea—marriage equality— that would sweep the country in seven short years.
June 26th, 2015
Seven years after our wedding, we waited on a Supreme Court announcement for the fourth time. The last one had struck down Prop 8. Now the US Supreme Court was going to make a final decision on DOMA. If we lost, we’d be set back a generation. If we won, the struggle that had defined my own generation would be over.
I wanted to stop time.
Then they said yes, a moment of almost blinding joy.
As President Obama said:
“This morning, the Supreme Court recognized that the Constitution guarantees marriage equality. In doing so, they’ve reaffirmed that all Americans are entitled to the equal protection of the law. That all people should be treated equally, regardless of who they are or who they love... ...today, we can say in no uncertain terms that we’ve made our union a little more perfect.”
It was over.
April 30th, 2016
At the end of April, I posted to the Marriage Equality Watch blog for the last time, a re-run of one of the first posts I ever wrote:
“…I hope that I may yet live to see gay marriage become a reality in the United States in my lifetime. Wouldn’t that be something.”
And it was.
June 26th, 2016
I’ve been writing for a couple years now, and am a part of “A More Perfect Union”coming out today for Marriage Equality Day—four stories about love and marriage by openly gay, happily married men.
Myself, B.G. Thomas, Jamie Fessenden and Michael Murphy (pictured above) thought marriage equality would never arrive, but in the end our dreams came true.
With a combined 21 years of marriage and 88 years together as couples, we’re offering our take on relationships and matrimony—tales of fantasy and romance woven from our lives and love.
Commemorating this first anniversary, “A More Perfect Union” celebrates the universal truths of marriage that apply to us all, gay or straight.
I’m really proud of this book, and of the journey Mark and I took to get here. And I hope it changes more hearts and minds.
So what’s next?
I honestly don’t know. The terrible shooting at the Pulse Nightclub showed us that we are still hated by some in this country. Our trans brothers and sisters need our support as they fight their own Prop 8’s. We must end bisexual erasure, and ensure equal treatment for all.
Marriage equality isn’t the end, but it is a victory.
One of my favorite lines from Queer as Folk:
“Mourn the losses because they are many. But celebrate the victories, because they are few.”
We won. But as we’ve since been reminded by the shooting in Orlando, and by new anti LGBTIQA efforts Houston, Indiana, Mississippi and North Carolina. it’s not over yet.
So we dust ourselves off and fight on. And we remember those we have lost along the way.
A More Perfect Union
For more info on "A More Perfect Union", head to Amazon and Dreamspinner:
Dreamspinner Press (eBook): https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/a-more-perfect-union-7149-b
Dreamspinner Press (paperback): https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/a-more-perfect-union-7150-b