I’m writing this down for three reasons. First, I’ve been asked dozens of times ‘how this feels’ by friends and family over the past few weeks. Second, I think this might be interesting to look back on in 10 or 20 years as what it was like “back then.” And third, I can’t sleep, so why not.
This week, nine men and women who collectively make up the Supreme Court will consider if I, and millions like me, have the right to marry. They may decide this in the context of California, they may decide that the federal government can’t tell my state what to do with my marriage, or they may change the shape of gay marriage laws nationwide. They may deal a painful blow and decide that there is no such right.
There are certainly others with more of a stake in this than I have. California couples. Those already married in states which allow gay marriage. Those in the Deep South who may wait a decade if the Supreme Court does not act on their behalf against an unfathomable local majority. Some people’s lives will change forever based on this week’s arguments.
But there’s something about this case that is a great equalizer. Every gay man and woman, whether they have come out yesterday, or they protested alongside Harvey Milk and continued ever since, is watching the Supreme Court with the same mix of cautious optimism and panic.
If I could sum it up in one phrase: This is our chance, but how dare they.
This is our chance to have the Supreme Court affirm what we know — that we are citizens of the United States and deserve by birthright equal justice under the law, and before our fellow citizens. We know it ours like we know it is our right to vote.
But how dare they hear arguments that it isn’t! How can a body like the Supreme Court entertain while sober the idea that some citizens are not guaranteed rights that others are? How does this go on in my homeland? How dare we be forced to sit by and watch this argument be presented as a factual, legitimate case.
Yet we will, as we have before, watch our families be smeared and our families and souls be reduced to words like “promiscuous,” “special rights,” and “non-procreative persons.” We will return home to our husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, parents, and others, and pretend as though there is not a war about us raging outside.
We are patient. And we hope.
This is the story of gay men and women watching political developments over the past decade. We are patient, yet persistent. We have stood by and have watched TV ads that declare us invalid parents, even threats to our own children and siblings, and somehow, to society at large. And we have painfully watched as millions of our friends, neighbors, and family members abandon us at the ballot box and the local debate.
Every time, we pick up, we forgive, and we begin our arguments again — hoping that next time, maybe you’ll change your mind. Maybe.
This situation sheds light on something that many in the gay community do, that I think is often overlooked and under-appreciated: They perpetually forgive. While we may pester, bother, demand, complain, and protest to no end, when you finally do come around to supporting gay marriage, we forgive you. We thank you. We ask you to saddle up and join the fight. Even if you’re Dick Cheney and campaigned nationwide to ban same-sex marriage in dozens of states. Even if you backed Proposition 8. We embrace you and we ask for your help. No matter what you may have said.
We have done this over and over again, but this time it feels different. Doesn’t it?
The wind is at our backs, support for equality is rising at record pace, Republicans are crossing over. It feels like, maybe – just maybe, for the first time, we won’t have to pick up the pieces afterwards, go home, and pretend as though it is not going on. Maybe — just maybe, we will cease having to plead for rights we know are ours. Maybe, we can finally stop asking that All Men Are Created Equal be extended to us. We may stop having to say ‘please?’ for our rights. It may help stop the stares in restaurants, the teenage tauntings, the suicides, the federal injustices, and the state law discriminations. Maybe that time is finally now.
We are a small minority who after decades of pleading our case, finally have the majority on our side. Maybe this time, unlike any other time before, we will celebrate a national victory for our families and families to-be.
So that is how it feels. It is nerve-wracking, it is anxious, it is full of maybes, it is hopeful, and it is possibly damning. But above all, it is time. We have waited, some of us a few years, others for decades, and finally our patience is paying off.
AND it is time, for you too. Whatever vote you may have cast in the past, whatever comments you may have made in front of us or behind us, this community has proven time and time again that it will forgive to make a new friend. We ask only for equal treatment under the law (and, maybe for the last time,) please.
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March 25th, 2013.