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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wedding Guest

by dday

I haven't done too much writing about Prop. 8 here, though I have at my other haunts. Over at Calitics we've devoted a substantial amount of time and resources to it, and we've raised over $50,000 at the Calitics ActBlue Page for Equality for All. I've been praiseworthy of the campaign at times, critical at others - I think their ads fail to put a face on who the discrimination would actually harm, and as such come off as vague and allow the theocons to distract and distort the issue ("they'll teach your kids how to be gay!!!") and drive the narrative. I've been happy that much of the progressive movement has come together to defend this attack on civil rights, and that even establishment figures like Maria Shriver and Dianne Feinstein have gone public for the cause (Barack Obama has allowed the campaign to use him in Web advertising, but there's an argument to be made that he could do more).

But instead of an analytical post (the short answer is that every single volunteer is vital because this will be an extremely close vote), I'd like to get a little personal. Today is Write To Marry Day, where hundreds of bloggers are posting about Prop. 8 and their thoughts about gay marriage and civil rights. I'd like to add my own by talking about the wedding I attended a few months ago.

It was unusual only for the fact that it was extremely casual. There was morning coffee and some pastries and other food and drinks set up on picnic benches at a park in the hills behind Berkeley, and a large field where the wedding was held. When the announcement was given for the ceremony to begin, everybody kind of meandered over to the field and stood around in a circle. The "aisle" for the couple to walk down had to be created impromptu. Eventually that got sorted out. Other than that, the event had what you might expect - two people who loved one another making a commitment to spend their lives together. It was entirely unremarkable and indistinguishable from any other wedding where I've been invited. Except for one thing.

The ceremony was conducted by Assemblymember (soon to be State Senator) Mark Leno. He is notable for having authored the marriage equality law that passed through the California legislature - twice - only to be vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger. (Just remember that the next time someone tells you he's "practically a liberal." He's opposing Prop. 8, supposedly, but has gone completely silent on the issue.)

In brief remarks, Leno talked about how the issue was not made clear to him until the Massachusetts Supreme Court rendered their decision on the law. He quoted the text of the decision at length, particularly this portion:

The SJC ruling held that the Massachusetts constitution "forbids the creation of second-class citizens." The state Attorney General's office, which argued to the court that state law doesn't allow gay couples to marry, "has failed to identify any constitutionally adequate reason for denying civil marraige to same-sex couples," Marshall wrote.

The creation of second-class citizens is really the nub of this, said Leno. By defining marriage in such a way, those who would seek to ban gay marriage tell those who wish to love one another how they can do it. But this is part of the common experience of the human condition - the desire to love another man or woman and profess a commitment to them. What is perverse - indeed, irrational and against human nature - is to defy that love and that commitment. The right to marry is a right to share in the common experience of man. It has served the nation and the world with tangible societal benefits and promotion of the family. It is a profoundly conservative virtue.

And this was a very (small-c) conservative, simple wedding, just two people - two men - and their friends and family, coming together to express their love and joy. This is what those who would pass Prop. 8 would snuff out. Indeed they are the radicals - the kind of people who would express that equality is not an American value. They have to rewrite the Declaration of Independence to fit their worldview:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…

It's really as simple as that. I was thinking while attending this wedding that I would maybe write something about the feelings it engendered, the wonderful picture of basic civil rights being expressed. But it was totally unremarkable, which is why I waited so long. It was banal, even. It was just two people that love one another among the hundreds of millions and even billions on this planet. There was nothing that special about it.

Which is why it should not be singled out and rejected.

If you can, volunteer for No on 8 or donate to their cause. It's the best investment in normalcy that you'll ever make.