My wife and I often joke about the fact that we will just keep getting married "until it sticks." Not for us, mind you, we are 110% committed to each other, our family, our daughter and all that comes with a lifetime vow. But here's the thing: as we watch the historic arguments in SF, I am reminded once again of the powerful experience we had when we went four years ago to participate in what we knew was a chancy proposition at City Hall. We were married with another couple by Mark Leno, with about 40 members of the gay men's chorus (our good friend is the director and she started a bit of a melee when the boys found out she was tying the knot!).
There, on the majestic steps in SF City Hall, with a media scrum behind us, we exchanged vows in the most public way possible. It was more moving that either of us thought it would be and it felt as much like a political act as a personal one. And we joked that most straight couples do not adamantly wait for the piece of paper that tells them they are married, it's probably more of a "mail it to me" mentality. We joked about how many straight people scan, frame and otherwise duplicate their marriage license.
Take a look at the picture of us that lived on the home page of MSNBC.com for a day. Sometimes my friends in the media have a sense of humor - "hey, that's Cathy and her partner, let's pop it up on the web!" Similarly, we live on as b-roll on Fox News, where they get a big kick out of calling out my name whenever they use it.
And no matter how much some people criticize Gavin Newsom, I think he was a true hero. The hundreds of couples lined up to marry, sleeping outside, waiting patiently, personified this fight better than any argument any lawyer could make and surely made an impression on the general public.
But, seriously, let's rewind about 6 months to what I consider the second most wonderful day of my life (birth of daughter now trumps, sorry, honey). In a lovely Episcopal chapel on the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge (our mutually favorite icon, one I wish they could stop blowing up in movies lately) we had a beautiful, meticulously planned ceremony. We wrote out own vows, we jumped the broom, we had a live tenor singing Andrea Bocelli and the dinner and dancing afterwards was amazing. The most interesting thing was that the assembled group - a mix of family and friends, gay and straight, old and young, religious and not so much was awed at this. Even for the gay folks, it was their first "gay wedding" and the intent and intensity was marked. My elderly Italian aunts (veterans of dozens and dozens of weddings) came up to us after and said this was the "best wedding they had ever been to." The interesting thing was that legally, this ceremony meant nothing. But personally and spiritually it meant more than any piece of paper we could get. You can see the joy on our faces in on of my favorite pictures I always caption "cake giggle."
The most interesting difference for me personally was that in SF I had no problem saying my vows to my partner. At our ceremony I basically said my vows to the pastor. I broke into tears every time I looked at her (much to my family's shock, I am not a public crier). Not that being married to Steve Baines would be such a bad thing, but I think we knew what it meant to say these words in front of God, family and friends. We knew we would need the support send love of all those assembled to make it in a world where we are treated like second-class citizens. We even did a program for my side of the family (aka Yankees) so they would understand what it meant to jump the broom and for Leah's family it was a briefing on why there was so much food and why it was being served "family style." Sure, it was a "gay wedding guide for dummies," but we felt is was very important our loved ones understood the thought behind this - and the reality of it as well.
So how do we convince the rest of the world that our relationships deserve equal treatment? Is it by talking about rights and responsibilities, taxes and hospital visitation? Of course it is. But it is also talking about love, commitment and family. It is, at the end of the day, about telling our stories and helping the public understand that, yes, we have our differences, but we also have a lot in common and all of us deserve equal treatment and respect in the eyes of the law. I have confidence that the folks arguing today in California on our community's behalf understand that and am hoping am praying that the Supreme Court justices will open their hearts and minds.