Today will be another mile marker in the struggle for marriage equality and civil rights. Today we will hear Judge Walker’s decision on Perry vs. Schwarzenegger , the case brought against the US constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8.
I imagine most of you are familiar with Prop 8, the voter initiative that stripped Californian same-sex couples of their right to legally marry. It was the first time in US history that a state had taken away a civil right already enjoyed by its residents. When its state constitutionality was challenged, Prop 8 was upheld, while California’s 18,000 gay and lesbian marriages already performed in 2008 were also upheld. I’m proud to be in the 18K club!
In 1967, my birth year, the US Supreme Court ruled in Loving v. Virginia that anti-miscegenation laws (laws prohibiting interracial marriage) were unconstitutional. Alabama became the last state to repeal its anti-miscegenation laws, in 2000, though these laws were unenforceable after the Supreme Court’s ruling. It will be interesting to hear how Loving v. Virginia is referenced in today’s ruling.
As a gay wedding officiant, I sometimes wonder if I’m doing my community, the LGBT community, a disservice by performing weddings for straight couples. My understanding of a wedding, though, is that it’s much more than the vows and me signing the marriage license. That’s just the legal side, and I have faith that same-sex couples will be able to legally wed some day soon all across the US. The other side of a wedding is the celebratory, joyful commitment to one another that transcends the law, that no one can deny to any couple. I use my own wedding as an example. My husband and I got married in Chicago in 2001. Illinois does not recognize gay marriages and does not even have statewide domestic partner laws. Yet our wedding was FANTASTIC! It was in a church, we had two wonderful ministers (one of whom is lesbian), we had attendants, music, poetry, vows, rings, a handfasting, tuxes, flowers, guests, food, dancing, two cakes (for two grooms!)… we had a wedding, and we’ve known we were married ever since then.
As I mentioned earlier, we also got married in 2008 at the Courthouse Annex in Lancaster, California. We wanted to be part of the history of gay marriage rights as a state-recognized gay, married couple, so we trekked up to the far northern reaches of Los Angeles County, family and friends in tow, applied for and got our marriage license and then had a civil ceremony presided over by a judge in the little “wedding room” at the Annex. Classic!
Whatever the verdict is today, the battle for full equality is not over. Same-sex marriage will end up in the US Supreme Court, just as interracial marriage did. I hope and pray for the day when no one will be denied any civil right based on their age, sex, race, color, ethnicity, religion, economic status, level of able-ness, sexual orientation or gender identity. Even with the laws are changed, it will take years, decades, before bigotry falls and love conquers hatred and fear.