My Journey to Support Marriage Equality

With the Supreme Court hearing the case about California's Prop 8 today and the Defense of Marriage act tomorrow, I am reminded of my own journey to support the legalization of same-sex marriage.  Before 2000 I did not support same-sex marriage rights.  In the 90's there was talk of Hawaii legalizing same-sex marriage.  At that time I felt that legalizing same-sex marriage would not mean anything if the public did not accept it. 

In 2000 I had been in California a couple of months when Prop 22 was on the ballot.  It seems like for the week before the election it was the only thing people were talking about in the media.  It felt like a distraction to me.  My new state was facing serious issues with budgets and education, but no one was talking about those issue.  I really hate distraction politics and this seemed to be a distraction from the real job of the government.  To me the best way to get past the distraction was to legalize same-sex marriage. 

I came into the office the day of the election and at the start of the day I was pulled into a conversation about the election.  I told someone that we should legalize same-sex marriage to get rid of the distraction.  One of my co-workers, Bill, must have taken offense at what I said because he mocked me for this opinion for the rest of the day.  He insisted I tell everyone who came into the call center room that day my idea about Prop 22.  

At that time I did not know Bill very well.  I later found out he is a gay man and it is easy to see why he was offended my blowhard declaration.   I worked closely with Bill over the next couple of years and found him to be a great person.  When I look back on that day in March in 2000, I can see I was being an ass. 

By the time Gavin Newsom decided to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples in 2004, my opinion had changed.  Some time in those 4 year I had come to the side that same sex marriage should be legal.  In the end it came down to one simple idea.  Could I look Bill in the eye and tell him he did not have the right to be happy?  Could I tell someone I called a friend and say marrying the person he loved was wrong.  I could not do that.  I could not imagine Bill wishing me any unhappiness, so how could I keep him from his happiness?

A few weeks ago Kate and I had lunch with Bill and his husband Howard.  They are the parents of a wonderful little girl.  Both Bill and Howard are wonderful fathers. You can see the love they have for each other.  I cannot imagine telling them they are not a family.  I cannot see how keeping people from marrying makes America a better place to be. 

I hope the Supreme Court throws out Prop 8 and over turns DOMA.  I believe it is only a matter of time for same sex marriage is legal in all of America.  I just hope we do not have to wait decades to see that. 

Comments

Bill Dailey said…
Thanks Rich – I’m glad to have been part of your journey.

Before election day in March of 2000, I was very involved in the campaign to defeat Proposition 22, so as you can imagine it was very personal to me. I do remember our conversation that day and I actually thought your position was pretty progressive for those days. Sorry that it sounds like I came off as a jerk about it.

Given that you were tried of hearing about Gay Marriage in 2000, I can only imagine how sick of hearing about it you are now. Me too. Howard and I were one of the lucky 18,000 same-sex couples that were married in California in 2008 after Prop 22 was ruled unconstitutional, and before the passage of Proposition 8. The polls say that Californians have shifted their opinions on the subject pretty drastically in the last 5 years, so it’s only a matter of time for Californians. Many other states will probably take awhile – and that’s OK.

DOMA is the bigger deal for me right now since it causes us a big tax headache when we have to file “Single” for Federal taxes, but “Married” for California taxes. I’m hopeful that the Supreme Court will see how short-sited it is and get rid of it Congress should have done that long ago, but we know how good they are at getting things done.

Anyways, thanks for being a friend and for being open to changing your mind.
Howard Lee said…
Rich, thank you for sharing your moving words. I must admit it brought a tear to my eye, which I hate to admit is not so easy these days as I think I've become a bit more jaded through the years.

But it is stories like this, and people like you and your lovely wife, that remind me there is no reason to be jaded...that it's a big world out there and there are still plenty of wonderful, loving and caring people out there such as yourselves.

Yes, Bill and I were one of the lucky 18,000 who are technically legally married in CA. And yes, it is a tax nightmare to have to file as "married" for state taxes and then do a whole other return for "single" for federal. I have often joked that if they are going to take our rights away, they can at least give us a commemorative bobblehead wedding cake topper with two grooms that says "Married in CA: couple 11,088 of 18,000." =)

But we are also lucky for knowing people such as yourself and Kate. And we are blessed to be together and now a family with Chloe. I look forward to the day that Bill, myself, you and Kate, will be taking our kids to the playground together.

Much love to you and Kate.

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