Pages tagged "johnlewis"
By MEUSA National Media Director Stuart Gaffney and MEUSA Director of Legal & Policy John Lewis This article originally appeared in SF Bay Times, October 31, 2013: http://www.sfbaytimes.com/?sec=article&article_id=18103 October brought marriage equality to state #14 – New Jersey. As attention now turns to the race between New Mexico, Hawaii and Illinois to see which state will become #15, we are also taking it to another level: Our momentum is going global. In November, we are traveling to Japan to give a series of public lectures and seminars on marriage equality and LGBT rights, and to meet with Japanese LGBT leaders. And while marriage is in the air in Japan – Kanako Otsuji, the first openly lesbian member of the Japanese legislature, held a personal wedding ceremony with her partner Maki Kimura; and Tokyo Disneyland hosted its first same-sex wedding ceremony this year – currently same-sex couples cannot marry legally in any Asian country. But just as we are seeing progress at home state by state, we are seeing signs of progress in countries across Asia, ranging from proposed legislation in Thailand for civil unions to a recent poll showing majority support for marriage equality in Taiwan. In the last week of October alone, historic rallies for marriage equality took place both in Vietnam and in Taiwan. In the words of Le Quang Binh, organizer of the Hanoi rally: “I believe in people and I think that when everybody speaks out, everyone has to listen whoever you are. So that’s why we do it this way. We mobilize public opinion, LGBT, students, young people so when people speak their opinion, politicians will have to listen. And I believe that politicians are also human beings. They need time to understand.” One of the messages we will bring to Japan is that we can be proud that Asian Americans have been very active in the marriage equality movement, and organizations like API Equality have played a prominent role here in California. When API organizations filed an amicus brief in the California Supreme Court case that established marriage equality in California prior to the passage of Prop 8, over 60 API civil rights and community organizations signed on. Among the very first was the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), noting that one of the lessons from the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II must be to uphold the civil rights of all groups, including LGBT Americans. In the words of former U.S. Transportation Secretary and Congressman Norman Mineta, “a threat to anybody’s civil rights is a threat to the civil rights of all Americans.” We look forward to reporting back in the coming weeks on our trip to Japan, and the lessons learned as we continue to make progress across all borders and boundaries.
By MEUSA Social Media Director Thom Watson In my previous column I noted I was about to get married. I hope you’ll forgive my ongoing self-indulgence as I write about my nuptials once more. One’s own wedding, after all, doesn’t happen every day. Admittedly, given California’s rollercoaster history regarding marriage equality, some of us have been married multiple times to the same person. Jeff and I even had a post-Prop 8 commitment ceremony that we called a wedding, in defiance of the amendment’s unconstitutional claim that we weren’t legally entitled to the term. But Jeff and I legally wed just once. At 2:00 p.m., Thursday, September 26 – three weeks ago today and four years to the day from that non-legal commitment ceremony – we made our vows to one another at San Francisco City Hall. Originally, our congresswoman Jackie Speier was slated to officiate. However, due to the ongoing budget crisis in the federal government, the House of Representatives was called back from their recess originally scheduled for the week we were to marry, and Rep. Speier regretfully had to cancel. [caption id="attachment_447" align="alignleft" width="300"] Jeff and Thom with Stuart and John at the Cliff House, September 28. ©2013 Levi Smith Photography[/caption] With one week to go before the wedding, our very dear friends and my fellow Bay Times columnists John Lewis and Stuart Gaffney generously agreed to step in as co-officiants. Actually, knowing that John had officiated other weddings, and that he and Stuart were going to be there at our wedding – just as they’d been with us at City Hall after Judge Walker’s decision in August, 2010, when we hoped the stay would be lifted and we would be able to marry; on Valentine’s Day earlier this year when we spoke to a crowd at City Hall about the pain of still not being able to wed; and again at City Hall that joyful day this past June when we finally got our marriage license – we already had asked if he would be willing to officiate in the event the congresswoman were called back to D.C. We had planned to ask Stuart to be our witness. When John and Stuart arrived at City Hall on the 26th, however, they surprised us by asking if we’d mind if they performed the wedding together. We were touched by the suggestion, thrilled by the possibility, and particularly moved by the symbolism of having these two men stand together to pronounce the words that would make Jeff and me husbands. Four years ago we knew John and Stuart largely only as fellow marriage equality activists, heroes of the California marriage equality movement, and plaintiffs in the court case that first established the freedom to marry in California and set the stage for our own wedding this year. In the intervening time, though, they’d become our mentors, our comrades-in-arms, and our brothers. John and Stuart brought a deeply personal touch to the ceremony, and Jeff and I consider ourselves to be so very fortunate that in the end our two friends were the ones facing us on the balcony at City Hall. [caption id="attachment_448" align="alignright" width="300"] Thom and Jeff with friends at their Cliff House reception. ©2013 Levi Smith Photography[/caption] Two days later we hosted a reception at the Cliff House, the location of our 2009 commitment ceremony. Four years ago we’d been joined by about 65 friends and family members. Last month over 110 of our friends and family were present; there were several dozen more people, including at least a half-dozen more kids, who might have been there but for other commitments, distance, or last-minute illness. Four years ago, there was one teenager present and no younger children. Last month nearly a dozen infants, toddlers, and pre-teens, along with a couple of teenagers, attended our reception. Several of these children call us “Uncle Thom” and “Uncle Jeff,” even though we have no biological connection, just a loving one that recognizes family ties beyond those of blood. We live in a world where love and legal marriage between two men or two women increasingly is not something to hide or to “protect” kids from, but rather something to celebrate, truly a family affair. We live in a world where these kids will grow up to be able to marry whomever they love, regardless of sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Honestly, not too many years ago I would have said I wouldn’t expect to see that world in my lifetime. But at the Cliff House last month, I saw that it’s already arrived. [caption id="attachment_451" align="alignleft" width="300"] Just a few of the friends Thom & Jeff have made within the marriage equality movement. ©2013 Levi Smith Photography[/caption] The increase in the number of people celebrating with us was due almost entirely to the new friends and allies we’ve made in the past four years through our marriage equality advocacy; we considered our reception, in fact, to be as much a day of celebration for the hard work of so many to return the freedom to marry to California as it was specifically for the two of us. To that end, we asked that in lieu of gifts attendees consider making a donation to Marriage Equality USA; I’m overwhelmed by our friends’ generosity and very proud to note that our equality registry to date has raised nearly $2,700 to help MEUSA in its efforts to win the freedom to marry for the 37 remaining states where couples like Jeff and me still are denied this important civil right. That includes states like Virginia, my birthplace and my home for over 35 years. Jeff and I left Virginia for California, his home, in no small part due to the extreme homophobia of Virginia’s government and the absolute lack of any protections there for LGBT people in public accommodations, housing, employment, or relationship status. It remains legal in Virginia to fire an employee, even a state government employee, to refuse service at your place of business, or to refuse to rent or sell a home, for no reason other than that you disapprove of someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The current attorney general, once (though thankfully no longer) the front-runner to be the next governor, has called LGBT people “destructive” and “soulless,” while the GOP candidate for lieutenant governor has made homophobic comments that make “destructive” and “soulless” sound almost like compliments in comparison. Still, things are getting better, even back there in the Commonwealth, if more slowly than we might wish. [caption id="attachment_453" align="alignright" width="300"] I say, old chap, it's time to bring marriage equality to the Old Dominion, what? ©2013 Levi Smith Photography[/caption] Recent news that the legal team headed by David Boies and Ted Olson that defeated Prop 8 is now challenging Virginia’s refusal to treat loving gay couples as anything more than strangers under the law is particularly welcome and heartening. Someday Jeff and I may be able to visit my birth family – his in-laws – with pride and optimism rather than the worry and dread based on the state considering our marriage invalid that so often accompanies our visits back there now. Thousands of couples like us, we hope, will before long have their own relationships treated with the legal recognition that is their human and civil right. It would be fitting, certainly, if the state that in Loving v. Virginia fought anti-miscegenation laws all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and lost, thereby resulting in bans on interracial marriage being overturned nationwide, were to provide same-sex couples our own version of Loving and the same end to all laws banning same-sex marriages. It’s long past time for the Commonwealth fully to live up to its motto, “Virginia is for lovers,” without the invisible disclaimer, “Void where gay.”
By MEUSA Director of Legal & Policy John Lewis and MEUSA National Media Director Stuart Gaffney An edited version of this article originally appeared in SF Bay Times, October 3, 2013: http://www.sfbaytimes.com/index.php?sec=article&article_id=18035 The latest California public opinion poll shows record support for marriage equality — 64% of likely voters and 61% percent of all adults. This news made us realize how wonderful it is when dreams really do come true, and when political goals that once seemed impossible are actually achieved. When the U.S. Supreme Court rulings ended Prop 8 and Section 3 of DOMA this summer, we wrote a press release for Marriage Equality USA saying that there would now be “more love and more marriage” than ever before. Yet we didn’t anticipate fully just how it would feel, landing somewhere over the rainbow — where instead of rallying for marriage equality in front of City Hall, we were getting invited to weddings inside City Hall. And for the first time we started having a whole new relationship to these weddings – in addition to getting wedding invitations, we started being invited to officiate. There truly is no better reward for a marriage equality activist! “By the power vested in me by the State of California, I pronounce you lawfully married spouses for life.” Those words have always held great meaning for us, not just because of the emotions we associate with weddings, but because they represent the first time we felt our government treating us as equal human beings, worthy of the full dignity and respect of the law. To be able now to say those words as officiants for couples saying “I do” is an amazing experience. No two couples are alike, and no two weddings are alike. We remember how the thousands of couples and families who lined up all day and even overnight in the rain outside San Francisco City Hall in February 2004 represented one of the most diverse gatherings of our community we had ever seen. And the couples we have been lucky enough to marry have been young and old, rich and poor, sick and healthy – just like the words in the wedding vows they recite. And now, without the deadline pressure couples felt in 2004 and again in 2008, couples are planning their happily ever afters with the greatest of love, care and creativity. One couple designed their own avatars. Another couple planned a fairytale honeymoon literally — at Disneyland. Yet another couple had feminist wedding cake toppers – “Sisterhood is Powerful” and “Viva La Revolucion.” And another had no money for rings, but still shared a very personal moment of commitment and equality. And so on — the creativity is endless, and the only constant is the joy — and tears of joy — in the eyes of couples who may have been together for 5 years or 50 years, but weren’t sure they would live to see the day when they could finally hear wedding bells ring out for them. As we perform marriages for dear friends and total strangers alike, it’s hard to imagine a political cause with a “happier” ending than the movement for equal marriage rights in California. But much remains to be done as we work to achieve marriage equality nationwide, to attain full equality in all aspects of our lives, and to stop homophobia and transphobia in all their manifestations. We were reminded of the work ahead when we recently performed a same-sex couple’s “confidential” marriage ceremony, a legal marriage with no traceable public record of the names of the couple. The couple needed the confidential marriage because they had very real fears for their safety in their community if it became known they were married. But the love and affection they felt for each other, their joy at marrying, and their sense of dignity at being treated equally under the law was palpable as their eyes locked on each other as they said “I do.” The substantive legal benefits of marriage were also very important to this couple with very limited income and financial resources. The world is changing right before our eyes — one wedding at a time. The movement for full equality has been filled with an enormous array of emotions and will undoubtedly involve many more successes and challenges. As we move forward, experiencing and sharing the joy of success inspires us as a diverse community to reach even greater heights. As we celebrate with the newlyweds in San Francisco City Hall, there’s truly no place on earth we’d rather be.