Monday, June 16, 2008

Here Come the Brides!


In May, the California Supreme Court ruled that state marriage laws which discriminate against gay and lesbian couples are unconstitutional. Chief Justice Ronald George wrote that the state constitution’s guarantees of personal privacy and autonomy protect "the right of an individual to establish a legally recognized family with the person of one's choice” and “properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and same-sex couples as well as opposite-sex couples.”

The ruling opens the doors to same-sex marriages throughout the state of California. San Francisco anticipates couples from all over the world coming here to have their ceremonies in the historic location where the fight for equal rights began: City Hall.

Tomorrow, marriage licenses will be issued to same-sex couples. However, one special couple will be married at 5 p.m. today.

Del Martin, 87, and Phyllis Lyon, 83, who have been together for more than 50 years, were the first same-sex couple of thousands married in 2004, the Winter of Love. All the marriages performed at that time were later ruled invalid.

Gavin Newsom, Mayor of San Francisco and a dedicated advocate of equal marriage rights, will perform today's ceremony.

"What we want, the narrative coming out of it, is about them and what they represent - their story, their history. This is really where it all started," Newsom said of the couple.

Ms. Lyon said it was "heartwarming" that the city wants her and Ms. Martin to be the first couple to marry, but that they are just a small part of what will happen as same-sex marriage begins in California. "Hundreds of thousands of couples will be getting married this time, and that's the important thing," she said. "It's something that has been due for a long time, and thank God, it's here."

The couple met in 1950 and moved into a Castro Street apartment together on Valentine's Day 1953. Two years later, they and three other lesbian couples founded the Daughters of Bilitis, which historians call the first lesbian organization in the United States. They also published The Ladder, a monthly magazine which was influential in the LGBT rights movement. Both women were inducted into the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association Hall of Fame.

A San Francisco medical organization founded in 1979 as a clinic for lesbians, Lyon Martin Health Services, bears their names.

Lyon said she and Martin "hoped we would see this day" of equal recognition of marriages for same-sex couples. "It means a great deal that we can get (a license) like anyone else."

Mayor Newsom said the couple provided him with much of the inspiration to order the county clerk to issue licenses to same-sex couples in 2004. "This is why I did it four years ago. It's personal as much as anything else."

They were married Feb. 12, 2004, and more than 4,000 same-sex couples flocked to San Francisco to marry before a court order ended the ceremonies on March 11 of that year.

The San Francisco City Attorney and several civil rights organizations filed a lawsuit against the state that won marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, credited Lyon and Martin's lifetimes of activism with bringing the LGBT rights movement to this point. "At a time when being openly gay cost you everything you cared about, they were. And they took risks and spoke out from the 1950s on in a way that I certainly do not believe I would have nor would most of us."

She said the couple being the first to marry "is the absolute least we can do to acknowledge how critical their legacy is to the lives of all of us."

So I asked Flip, "Would you marry me if I were a guy?"

"No."

This made me a little sad. I know that we're straight, but I have believed for a long time that love is not necessarily a matter of anatomy, and that we fall in love with a person's soul which makes everything else, including gender, secondary.

Still, it's a wonderful thing to be loved and accepted, and acknowledged by the world as a committed couple. Considering that I have never personally had to fight for that right, I am perhaps unreasonably happy that it is now available to everyone. I wonder if there's a word for reverse schadenfreude, rejoicing at another's well-deserved good fortune. If not, there really should be.

41 comments:

Nick said...

That's great that same-sex marriages are now legal again, and I'm sure plenty of couples will seize the opportunity. Del and Phyllis are a real inspiration. As you say, we heterosexuals have never had to fight for that right and it's difficult to comprehend just how painful and frustrating it must be if it's denied to you.

thailandchani said...

Hear, hear.

furiousBall said...

this is good stuff

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

Is it the legal acknowledgement of a couples commitment to each other that is important? Is it the benefit of rights that were denied?

Is it the ceremony and the paper that legally binds them together?

I think that Del and Phyllis have been married to each other, in their hearts, since they made the first commitment more than 50 years ago.
Does the law or the paper change any of that devotion and love?

Is it the gaining of the right to become legally married that is the key issue of importance?

Whatever it is, it is good, and I am very happy for those whom this will bless with completion.


Best of luck and love to them all

Scarlett & Viaggiatore

comfortandjoy said...

Heart,

I think the words for your delight in others' good fortune may "truly human" or maybe "magic."

Thank you, so much, for posting this.

By the way, I think the importance of this is the rights, and the ceremony, but I think it's mostly the recognition. That we are deserving. Normal. Legitimate. Human.

This couple has been married in the eyes of God for 50 years, but in the eyes of the United States government and many of its citizens, they've been deviants, sinners, and outcasts.

Time for a change.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Nick,

They are an inspiration to couples everywhere and of every persuasion for the longevity of their devotion.

Chani,

Yes.

Van,

Hopefully this will signal the end of outdated notions and acceptance of all will blossom in our hearts.

Scarlett,

I agree that love is not legislated, nor does it require legal acknowledgment or society's blessing. But nobody should be denied the respect and authenticity that others take for granted. I don't believe that a marriage certificate changes anything because the real marriage takes place in our hearts, but I'm sure it means a lot to those who have been cast as second-class citizens all their lives to finally come into the light. To them, such recognition must be the Promised Land to which all should be allowed entry.

As long as any right is denied to some citizens, they are not equal. In law begins all meaningful change and protection against discrimination. Law provides the recourse to address such wrongs. This is BIG, landmark stuff, Progress with a capital "P," and I am thrilled.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Comfort&joy,

Yes, it's about frickin' damn time. We are all human, regardless of the details.

Any kind of discrimination is terribly wrong and a crime against humankind.

It shouldn't matter whether ones love object is a man, a woman or a Boston fern. I have always felt sorry for those who can't love anyone at all.

I think you're going to love living here as much as I do.

RED MOJO said...

A beautiful post. Thank you heart. I believe the the importance of this right is really really basic. It's being treated as equals, as citizens with the same rights all other citizens have...it's not the paper, it's the principal! It's the end of a kind of legal discrimination that has gone on for far too long.

On a limb with Claudia said...

Now how wonderful is that! Hurray for Del and Phyllis - and Hurray for the world that one atrocity is abolished. Finally.

seventh sister said...

If this is a current pic, they look fabulous for women in their
80s.

I'm glad they will be getting married again. I don't know wht the big deal is and why anybody give a flying fig who marries whom. It doesn't take anything away from herterosexuals for homosexuals to get married...and as far as the tradition fo marriage goes, it started as a way for fathers to sell, er, trade their daughters for whatever the groom could come up with. I don't know why women want to perpetuate the custom unless they want to have kids. Then it makes a lot of sense from a legal stand point.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Mojo,

Yes, without principles, we have nothing. They define us, our beliefs and the way we are perceived by others, too.

There is a lot more going on here than a mere piece of paper with some signatures on it.

Claudia,

They are amazingly dynamic women. They said in an interview that the secret of their success as a couple is that they fight clean and know when to make up.

It sounds like marriage to me.

Sister,

I just added a picture of today's nuptials to my post. They do look older, but more importantly, they look deliciously happy.

the psycho therapist said...

This post and the pictures just makes me so damn happy. How wonderful to witness others receive grace.

It's almost a contact high. Okay, it is a contact high.

rhubarbwhine said...

Such a controversial issue in politics. I am glad to see how these two are being celebrated, at the same time my heart goes out to them for the hard times they must have experienced. Recognition of same sex couples is now new to most of the population.

A great read, many thanks.

The CEO said...

On the bright side, how about happyfreude?

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Wendy,

Yes, it really is. Thanks for pointing that out.

Rhubarb,

It's not perfect yet, but it's progress. There was a time when marriage between people of different races was illegal. Thankfully, we are learning as a society, albeit much too slowly.

Monty,

Happyfreude is good.

The best I could come up with was the Buddhist concept of mudita, "sympathetic joy" or "happiness in another's good fortune."

Call it what we will, the world needs more of it.

Sienna said...

Basic human civil rights...

Good on California.

We are still chasing this here, it's probably not far away, Kevin Rudd stopped short of full legal recognition...I've written off a letter and asked why? (they stopped that little bit short of full rights!!??)

Kerryn Phelps who used to head the AMA (Docs Assoc) over here and is an amazing role model for girls and women...(all people!!) was talking about the step closer to marriage laws, while she appreciates the next step the Rudd Gov't has made, she explained beautifully the other countries that had full gay marriage rights and how the sky had not fallen in in those countries yet..

This is wonderful news Hearts..basic civil rights.

Pam

Los Angelista said...

I heard the tail end of a story on NPR talking about how the State is welcoming this because they want the money from extra marriage licenses. They think it'll help balance the budget. That sort of annoyed me because it put such an avaricious spin on what is clearly a happy day for so many. I surely wish Del and Phyllis the best and hope that they continue to fight fair and clean. (such good advice!)

the walking man said...

Yeah for California...I hope this reaches out to confound the laws of every state that has gone and made "marriage only acceptable between a man and a woman"

Having lived in the Bay Area for a time I got the best education in Gay pride and rights back in the dying days of the 70's...freedom is meant for everyone...period.

And that is all I have to say about that.

Say It said...

Its crazy because I am happy and excited for these couples as well. There is an undercurrent happening in this country that has been long over due in surfacing. I think it is finally surfacing and I'm glad I can witness it!

Fate's Granddaughter said...

The second photograph, and the post in general, brought tears to my eyes.

I was filled with similar excitement when the first civil ceremonies were legalised here - but disheartend by the small numbers of protesters who felt it necessary to picket outside the ceremony, spewing hatred and prejudice.

Imagine protesting against love and committment, and calling it Christian?

Christy said...

I certainly hope these marriages last throughout the rulings. It will break my heart if they are said to be obsolete after November.

Sexism is evil.

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Grand story! Thanks.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Pam,

Sadly, there is nothing basic about human civil rights in many places, including here all too often because they can not be taken for granted. Still, as long as right-minded people don't let up, eventually things begin to shift. If only it didn't take so bloody long, though.

Kevin Rudd sounds like a very good man. I would put my faith in him to do the right thing, considering his track record in such a short time already.

Liz,

Yes, it's true that many are licking their chops over the prospect of increased tourist revenue. But avariciousness will always be with us.

It's still a very happy day when all people are gathered into the fold of society as equals, and while I am not naive enough to believe that we are there yet, all signs of progress make me hopeful.

Mark,

No one could say more, or more eloquently, what you have stated here - that freedom is meant for everyone.

Should we call you Forrest now, or maybe Tom? And that's all I have to say about that!

Say it,

It does feel as if things are beginning to change in many quarters. Let's hope so. Change is good, and we are oh-so-ready for it.

Fate,

I was also disgusted by the protesters. When one of the marriage supporters said, "We're all sinners," a self-righteous creep screamed back, "I"M a Christian -- I'm a saint."

(Oh, Gawd, give me air.)

And Jesus wept.

Christy,

Evil has many faces and always will until we truly get that we do not have the right to decide how another lives.

St. Nick,

Sometimes good things happen.

Craze said...

How wonderful is it that they are finally able to marry? I'm blessed to be a part of such history. And thank the heavens above it is now their right. I cross my fingers and wait for the day that all states will follow.

Maria said...

You know what is interesting? So many of my straight friends are so happy but so many of my gay friends are very guardedly so. It is just that we have had to deal with so many events like this only to have them taken away again. It is hard to trust...

And in saying that, keep in mind that there is still a battle. In the latest poll, over 59% of those asked said that they did not believe that gay people should have the right to be married. That hill is steep, but it is getting chipped away.

Maria said...

And, I forgot to add....I really WISH that Obama would stop backstepping away from this topic. I understand his reasons, but I truly wish that our candidate would take a good stand with us.

graceonline said...

What a lovely tribute to two heroes. Not only have they advocated for equal rights for gays and lesbians, but Martin and Lyon have been outspoken advocates for women's rights as well. They were among the first to bring spousal battering out of the closet and helped fuel the hard-won laws protecting women from physical, sexual and psychological abuse by their husbands and lovers.

I am deeply happy for them and pray that people all over the world will join in their celebration.

Slip said...

It is a shame it all has come to this. What ever happened to common sense? The happy couple are obviously staying together no matter what any government agency or piece of paper says!

By making their marriage legal so many things that "traditional" couples take for granted come into play. Like the ability to follow their partners wishes in health care, death, and estate management. The first few divorce cases will make as big a splash as the the marriages!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Craze,

It's a good thing.

And now they will be free to enjoy all the rights of other married people, like making life-or-death decisions (and getting divorced, fighting over custody, all of it.)

The battle for same-sex marriage also reminds us all of how precious some things are that we have always taken for granted.

Maria,

It enrages me that anyone would presume to decide what should or shouldn't be when it doesn't concern them.

Same-sex marriage takes nothing away from opposite-sex marriage, nothing. In fact, it could be said that it strengthens the power of marriage itself.

I can understand an attitude of guardedness, though. It was taken away in 2004 a mere month after it came into being here. It remains to be seen how powerful those who object are.

I'm sure that Obama feels he can't risk it, but I would like to see someone visible step up to the plate, too.

Grace,

I share your hopes for them and for all of us. As a society, we still have far to go toward full acceptance of all.

Del and Phyllis are real heroes, but so are all who struggle against a hostile world to be their best selves.

Thank you for coming by!

Slip,

Yes, those basic rights should never have been withheld from anyone. I see this as an attempt to right old wrongs, a step in the right direction and as such, I honor it. But a piece of paper does not make people married in their hearts; love and commitment do, and that has nothing to do with ones sexual orientation.

I found myself wondering about the first divorces, too. It may take awhile because the marriages were so hard-won, but inevitably some of them will fail because ultimately we are all human.

witnessing am i said...

Thank you for this post, Heart. Seems like a simple equation:

Love (hetro/homo/animal/etc) = happiness = a brighter, better world with more happy people in it

I am forever amazed that hetrosexuals are so threatened by the mere idea of same-sex marriages, as if such unions lesson the importance or seriousness of marriage overall. It'll be nice when this kind of story is no longer news-worthy. I hope I live to see it.

MsLittlePea said...

This is why I heart California so much. I still don't understand why people freak out about same sex couples. Poverty and injustice should be bigger issues to be outraged over, but maybe that's just me? :O) If I hear one more idiot politician or protester bring up the damn "sanctity of marriage" crap, I think I'll scream. Especially since the divorce rate is pretty high. Del and Phyllis can teach us all a thing or to about lasting love and true commitment.

Ian Lidster said...

Yes, there should be such a word. True love is true love and I'm damn well in favor of it no matter how it manifests itself. For homophobic straights all I wonder about is, why?
But, I am with Flip on whether I'd marry Wendy if she were a guy. No, and probably for the same reasons. But, I know we'd be good buddies.
On the other hand, I can go on coffee and lunch dates with a favorite gay female friend and evoke no jealousy within the household. Consequently, that increases friendship opportunities and, straight or gay, I truly delight in the ocmpany of females.

citizen of the world said...

What a wonderful couple for them to start with. Marriages, whether they last forever or not, are such a statement of optimism. Every couple should have that right.

citizen of the world said...

What a wonderful couple for them to start with. Marriages, whether they last forever or not, are such a statement of optimism. Every couple should have that right.

The Fool said...

Terrific post. Kudos.

And please, do press Flip with the next question...would he marry you if he were a girl?

Just curious on how the wheels spin. Just wondering if all of the geese are included in such a determination...you know, with what being good for the goose being likewise for the gander.

:)

heartinsanfrancisco said...

David,

I hope so, too.

I also don't understand why anyone would feel threatened by the formalizing of love relationships.

It seems that as you suggest, love is the important thing and the rest is mere details.

Sweet Pea,

You are so right that there are more pressing issues that need to be addressed. I also agree that two people who have managed to live happily together for over 50 years have much to teach us about love and marriage.

Ian,

Gee, I would never have guessed that about you, that you enjoy the company of females.

And it's probably a good thing I'm not a guy -- I'm very short. I would have to buy my macho man's duds in the little boy's department.

Citizen,

Marriage is indeed the ultimate optimistic act, especially in view of the booming divorce rate.

But as someone once said, why shouldn't gay people have a right to be miserable, too?

Fool,

I doubt that Flip can imagine himself as a girl. He's pretty set in his ways where such things are concerned. And he's also 6'4" so he could never wear heels.

seventh sister said...

A song for Del and Phyllis:
http://www.last.fm/music/Eric+Schwartz/_/Hattie+and+Mattie

meggie said...

An interesting post. I agree with your sentiments.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Sister,

I'm sure that Del and Phyllis thank you.

Meggie,

I'm glad. Thank you!

Angela said...

Amen. What a beautiful photo of the two of them. Love. What a gift.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Angela,

Yes.