I don’t cry at weddings. For me, weddings are a joyous moment between two people who love each other that attendees are asked to share in. Hence, I always find them a happy experience assuming:
a. I agree with the spousal choices of the couple in question
b. I like (or at least don’t dislike) the couple in question
c. I am happy with the gift I am giving the couple in question (if indeed there is a gift involved)
d. I am not sitting uncomfortably in some lame outfit or unnecessarily bizarre location mandated by the couple in question.
But tears? Not so much.
However, I did cry at a wedding of two people I didn’t know and wasn’t even invited to this week. It was the wedding of Jeff Zarillo and Paul Katami, two men who after the last few days I feel as if I do know because they were the newly victorious co-plaintiffs of the recent marriage equality case before the US Supreme Court. And as LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa stood up for a few minutes in City Hall to marry them, and I watched it being telecast live on The Rachel Maddow Show (which seemed especially apt considering – well, you know), big wet tears suddenly started sliding down my face. Like, really suddenly. Without warning. Even my male partner of 25 years who I am not currently married to (why rush it?) was a bit taken aback. Who is this weird guy crying at a televised wedding and who kidnapped the cynical queen (my words, not YOURS) I’ve lived with for the last quarter century, he must have wondered. Well, I wondered the same thing. Just goes to show you that no matter how much time you spend with another person, or yourself, there will always be surprises.
The same is true of the world. No matter how many years you believe you understand the universe you can always get the rug pulled out from under you at any given moment. Certainly that is also how large groups of people of all sexual persuasions must have felt simultaneously this week when they were told that it will likely be much, much harder for them to cast votes in the next election (and all others after that). Votes that, as the years go by and our electoral differences further solidify between right and left with very little of the soft center remaining (think mismatched Oreo tops without the fillings), become more and more essential if we’re to truly call ourselves these UNITED States.
The Supreme Court also rendered another verdict this week – overturning one of the cornerstones of Civil Rights legislation of the 1960s – Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. This law required that states with a history of discriminatory voting laws against non-white people (mostly southern states) needed to be pre-approved before amending any of their current voting laws. This essentially meant that states that previously made it harder for Blacks (and other non-whites) to vote and went kicking and screaming into what we now think of as the integration of all races in US society, need special policing because they had proven time and time again that they were likely to fall back into their old ways of doing things.
Simply put, if you were a black or brown person, or even a white person who was a member of a certain group in states like Texas, Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia and a few others, you were going to need more sophisticated ID’s and the lines were going to be A LOT longer before (and sometimes even with) Section 4. Think this is my liberal bias? Well, not this time. Since the dissolution days ago of #4, Texas has already proposed a new voting law that says concealed hand gun licenses are acceptable voter IDs but that student IDs and disabled veteran IDs alone are not enough to allow a citizen to vote at their local polling place. Other states like Alabama, North Carolina, Florida and Virginia are also planning to reactivate voting laws that limit the number of hours certain polling places are open (particularly in poor neighborhoods) and put restrictions on advance voting (a time-honored tradition in many African American communities).
Oh – and by the way – Happy 4th of July.
Well, at least you could feel the public fireworks spreading for gays and lesbians nationwide as the Supremes ruled that same-sex marriage is officially legal again in California and, even more importantly, that the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 federal law that defined marriage as solely between one man and one woman, thereby ostensibly outlawing ANY federal rights for same sex couples for all eternity, is unconstitutional.
What does this mean? That pretty soon gays and lesbians who are married in any of the 13 states (and counting) that now allow gays and lesbians to marry – including New York and California, two of our most populated states – will be able to file joint federal tax returns, receive spousal Social Security benefits and participate in hundreds of other privileges their fellow citizens have always enjoyed. That is, in a word I refuse to credit to Donald Trump – huge.
There is a problem.
Not to be a party pooper but here’s what I’ve learned as a lifetime member of at least three minorities (gay, Jewish, and men 5’7” & under). The rights of all people deemed less than or the other by those in power are forever intertwined. It is, all of it, the same issue. Who is going to be the next other? That’s anyone’s guess. But I can no sooner be overjoyed at being granted permission to legally marry at long last without being devastated that the rights of my fellow non-white citizens are in danger of being infringed upon at the ballot box in the next election. And this is not because I’m a liberal and certainly not because I am a particularly good person. It’s because – they are all THE SAME RIGHTS.
As sure as I’m sitting here writing this, the absence of rights for some other minority group means that my just gotten ones could very soon be in jeopardy. All it takes is a slight tipping of the scales in the other direction that newly discriminatory voting practices could insure. No minority is safe alone. But all are safe if they are woven together. Because contrary to what is being spewed by the far right wing among us – we are a nation that is built on the uniting of minorities: religious ones, freedom-loving ones, multi-colored ones, and even sexually varied ones. This thought does not EXCLUDE the most conservative or religious among us. It simply INCLUDES everyone else.
Wendy Davis, a Texas state Senator who has become a new personal hero of mine, proved that fact when she stood for 11 hours without food, water or a bathroom break and successfully filibustered a pretty hostile group of her fellow legislators in order to stop a proposed Draconian law in Texas that was going to force the closing of most of its health clinics for women and thus severely deny statewide access to birth control services (nee abortion rights) for many females (most of them poor ones).
Ms. Davis, a Harvard-educated lawyer, is blonde, tall, thin and white – all of which make her part of the privileged elite in Texas and most other states. But it took only one day after her victory for the very conservative Texas Gov. Rick Perry, an avid supporter of the now defunct bill, to marginalize her into underprivileged, minority status by roaring publicly that that woman who filibustered had a child at 19 and was raised by a single mother. This quickly lifted Ms. Davis into what Gov. Perry hopes will be one of them in the minds of the majority of the state. Not content to stop there, the governor elaborated: What if her (Rep. Davis’) Mom said, ‘I just can’t do this? I just don’t want to do this?’ …It is unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example that every life must be given a chance to realize its full potential and that every life matters.
See how quickly even a successful white woman can be reduced to an unfeeling, immoral, underage mother who, if given the access to the health care she advocates, couldn’t be trusted to not abort her own daughter? Never mind that if you count numbers Rep. Davis, a female, is actually in the MAJORITY of the population. The largest groups among us are not always the most powerful, especially if one travels many thousands of miles away to, let’s say, our financial landlords, China. Of course, sometimes one need to look no further than one’s back door to make that point, as Ms. Davis and the rest of her fellow teenage Moms, gays and lesbians, and the minority voters of the United States so amply demonstrate to those who want to use them as a wedge issue of the future.
However, if you put all of us together – and add the rest of the nation’s immigrant population (that’s pretty much ALL of us aside from native Americans if you go back far enough) – you’ve got something else. It’s called, as we like to say around the Fourth of July, these United States.
Happy Birthday to us (native Americans included). All of us. And that means – everyone.