Just over four years ago, in front of family and friends and a few surprised tourists, Sandy and I were married at San Francisco City Hall.
Our marriage was eventually declared invalid, and the recent ruling in California won’t change that. We can get married again in California (or Massachusetts, or Canada), and probably will, though Florida doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages and is trying to stop them from ever being recognized, and California’s voters are headed to the ballot box to try to change the state constitution.
You might wonder why we would even bother doing this again, since so few states recognize same-sex marriages, and it could get undone, etcetera, and it boils down to this:
It’s different at the front of the bus.
No matter what, when you commit to riding at the front of the bus, and then you actually do it, you will be changed for life. Maybe next time, you won’t get to ride at the front of the bus, and maybe even as you’re riding up front people will be trying to push you to the back, but you’re still on that bus, at least for that one ride, and from that point on you see yourself differently.
As I wrote in “The Outlaw Bride” (an essay about our experience which will appear in the next issue of Ninth Letter, published by the University of Illinois), “Our marriage could be invalidated, but the mischief had been done: I no longer saw us as people who could not or should not marry.”
The state can take away our right to marry (or in the case of most states, never offer it), and it can declare our wedding licenses invalid, and it can even accuse us of ruining it for everyone else (which is the gist of Florida’s anti-marriage initiative), but it can’t take away our experiences. Once you see yourself as equal, that clock won’t turn backwards.
If you are reading this and wondering what you can do to put everyone at the front of the bus, I recommend donating to Equality California, Equality Florida, or another human-rights organization. Give as much as you’d give if your same-sex friends were getting married and you were buying them a particularly nice wedding gift. Because I can’t think of a better present.