My mother flew 2,000 miles to be at my father's gay wedding. Twenty years ago she was just "his poor wife" to the gossips in our Louisiana hometown, and I was "their poor son." We lost a lot when my father came out of the closet: a business, a home, a church, a social standing -- the only thing we didn't lose was each other.
A few years ago, my father and his partner of 13 years got married in Portland, Oregon. But then groups were formed, fears were stoked, and six months after their courthouse vows, they received a letter reading: Dear Messrs. Carter and Martin, We regret to inform you that your marriage is no longer valid. Enclosed is a refund of all license fees. It became more of a family joke than a family disappointment, because laughter is sometimes the strongest form of defiance.
When California legalized gay marriage, my father and his husband planned a marriage here, hoping it would last longer than the six months of their Oregon attempt. They arranged for an intimate ceremony at a small hotel in the Sonoma Valley wine country. It was the first gay marriage that the officiant had ever performed, and what surprised him most about it was that my mother had come all the way from Texas to be there, and that I -- the straight son -- was as proud as I was to do a reading at the ceremony. To us it was no big deal; we learned years ago that if you don't know how to love around your differences, then you don't really know how to love. But the veteran officiant, a man who spends his life bearing witness to love, had never seen anything like it. He recognized that it wasn't just about the two gay men, but also about a family. And it was not about celebrating homosexuality as much as it was just about celebrating love.
Now "the people" of California have decided that the structure of my family is a threat to their children, to their lifestyle, to the sanctity of marriage, or to some combination of them all. The political arguments supporting gay marriage have been made by people who can make them far better than I can. And still, the opposition may never change their minds. But their children will, and if not them then their grandchildren. Because the seeds of their defeat are not the gays and lesbians lining up at the courthouses; the seeds of their defeat are the same as with any other civil rights issue in history -- truth and time.
If my mother and I can support the marriage of a man whose sexuality threw her life off course and jarred me into adulthood, then how is it that perfect strangers won't even do my father the courtesy of not going out of their way just to stand in his?