While more gays started organizing, others took the fight to the courts. Kristin Perry and Sandra Steir's lawsuit against California, which has wended its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, is just one example. Couples in Nevada, Illinois, and New Jersey are challenging same-sex marriage bans in their states, while 17 other cases are challenging aspects of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Watching these movements, it's easy to think that marriage is the goal of a single "gay community." But post-Prop. 8 activism has also illustrated that not all gays view their lives in the same way.

Shortly after Prop. 8 passed, an anonymous gay blogger started Gays Against Gay Marriage, arguing that same-sex couples who marry are seeking mainstream approval by mimicking straight people. Against Equality, another gay-backed group that travels and speaks out against same-sex marriage, also launched in the wake of the proposition. (It even sells "Just say no to marriage" tote bags.) Last year, Salon.com and Daily Beast articles examined anti-marriage perspectives in the gay community. Gay fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld told Vice magazine in 2010 that he opposed marriage: "In the '60s they all said we had the right to the difference. And now, suddenly, they want a bourgeois life."

Julia Adams (right) with wife Rebecca Prozan, a marriage-rights advocate who organized the first public civil-union ceremonies in 1996.
Norma Cordova
Julia Adams (right) with wife Rebecca Prozan, a marriage-rights advocate who organized the first public civil-union ceremonies in 1996.
Hank Donat and Jeffrey Halpern stand in front of City Hall, where their nuptials made them symbols of a movement.
Norma Cordova
Hank Donat and Jeffrey Halpern stand in front of City Hall, where their nuptials made them symbols of a movement.

At home, San Francisco's long-running radical collective Gay Shame argues that same-sex marriage shouldn't be the ideal — or at least shouldn't take priority.

"Everyone should have access to the things that marriage brings to some (like healthcare)," group spokesperson Mary P. (all members go by "Mary") says in an e-mail. "We believe that extending these practices to a few more does nothing to undermine the racist, sexist, classist, trans/homophobic violence that is U.S. law. The LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender] mainstream needs to stop celebrating the state and begin the work of overthrowing it."

While dissent may have hampered the momentum of the marriage-equality movement, complacency and apathy might be a bigger problem.

"I don't think a lot of the community really cares that much," says Julia Adams, wife of Rebecca Prozan, who organized the first public civil-union ceremonies in 1996. "Maybe that isn't exactly right — especially for older LGBT folks, they didn't expect it to happen in their lifetime, and so they think, 'Why be overly concerned? It will happen or it won't.'"

But Stuart Gaffney, who with his husband, John Lewis, was part of the lawsuit that legalized same-sex marriage in California in 2008, doesn't see these detractors as standing in the way of gay marriage, but as part of the conversation he and others like him helped shape.


Marriage wasn't always on the radar for Gaffney and Lewis, now among the most-recognized faces in San Francisco's marriage-equality faction. The couple resolved on Jan. 1, 2004, to get involved in the marriage fight. Their first work of activism: Lewis would attend the Freedom to Marry rally on the steps of City Hall on Feb. 12, 2004, when Mayor Gavin Newsom, who'd held the office all of six weeks, began issuing marriage licenses.

Lewis arrived at the rally and asked Molly McKay, then Equality California's field director, what the plan was.

"She said, 'You can walk right into City Hall right now and get married. Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon just did," Lewis says, referring to one of San Francisco's pioneering gay-activist couples. Eagerly, he borrowed a cell phone and called Gaffney.

"It was the most urgent wedding proposal you've ever heard: 'Get to City Hall right now,'" Gaffney says. "It felt very fragile. It could be a once-in-a-lifetime chance, and what if we missed it?"

Despite being in a committed relationship for 17 years, the transformation that they felt upon being pronounced "spouses for life" was profound. "It was the first time in my life that I felt like my government was treating me as an equal human being, respecting my relationship, my love, my family, as fully worthy as any other," Gaffney says.

Those 2004 weddings — themselves a form of protest — put a public face on same-sex relationships. Television viewers nationwide saw couples dressed in tuxedos and white dresses, kissing and tossing flowers, just like in the weddings they'd seen at their local churches. Similar marriage protests followed in other parts of the country. Afterward, couples went back to their daily lives, bringing visibility and openness with them. That visibility hastened acceptance of same-sex marriage, says Verta Taylor, chair of the sociology department at UCSB and co-author of a forthcoming book, The Marrying Kind?: Debating Same-Sex Marriage within the Gay and Lesbian Movement.

This was when the marriage-equality movement was born — out of Newsom's action and the 4,037 marriage licenses that followed. When Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger shut down the weddings and revoked marriage licenses a month later, gay newlyweds were angry — and began fighting back.

Taylor, who co-authored an award-winning research paper on the influence of San Francisco's 2004 weddings on gay activism, polled gays and found that 75 percent subsequently gave money to a marriage-equality organization; 46 percent became more "out" about their marriages; and others demonstrated, gave money to pro-gay legislators, wrote letters, or took some other action.

(She also discovered plenty of opposition among gays. Some felt that marriage would change gays by shoehorning them into traditional heterosexual roles, or that too many married couples would spoil the special community gays had cultivated for decades.)

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1 comments
psychosupermom
psychosupermom

I am a fervent supporter of marriage equality - I was the 'best man' for my dearest friend when he married his husband, once in a 'commitment ceremony' and once at City Hall when it was legal, and they are the most committed, loving couple I know, and I"m proud that they are the godparents for my teenage sons.  Moreover, like all good Jewish mothers, I secretly hope one of my sons turns out to be gay (because he'll never replace me with another woman, and he'll help me shop!)  So the stakes in this election are high (particularly since as a woman, a Jew, and an advocate of marriage equality, I feel triply dissed by the right . . . , which is why I recorded, "It's A Scary Time To Be A Jewish Mother", the first in my series of youTube political comedy songs . . .  enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-H0-r07_y3

 

 
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