Gillian and I watched our attorneys today argue before the California Supreme Court for the rights of same sex couples right to marry. The hearings were webcast, so even though we now live in Chicago, we were able to watch history being made.
It made me think back to when I first lived here in Chicago back in the early 1990s. In the spring of 1992, there was a protest for domestic partnership rights at the University of Chicago. I wasn’t a member of the University community at that time, but I lived near by and knew many people who were affiliated in some way. I knew lots of queer folk, and regularly attended events and social gatherings. The day before the protest, my acquaintance and future girlfriend, Tamara, asked me if I wanted to get married.
I was a little taken aback since I hardly knew this girl, but she explained that it would simply be participating the protest of the University’s policy of denying domestic partnership benefits to the same-sex partners of their gay and lesbian employees. I accepted her offer.
I really felt that the whole thing was a silly lark. It was fun, after all. In the spirit of Queer Nation and Act Up, the event was festive and fun. I remember Mardi Gras beads and drag queens, lots of people flirting, and lots of fun. I still have the pink marriage license. I was in my early twenties at that time, and not in a serious relationship, and I really never thought that I would care about being able to get married or health care or benefits. I never that same-sex partner benefits would happen in my lifetime, much less same-sex marriage.
By December of 1992, just a few months after that protest, the University of Chicago agreed to offer domestic partner benefits to their gay and lesbian employees, one of the first major American universities to do so.
Twelve years later, I got a phone call from my ex-girlfriend who asked me to marry her all those years ago, asking me again if I wanted to get married, this time to my beloved, Gillian, and this time for real at San Francisco City Hall. We would be among the first same-sex couples in the United States to get legally married. We jumped at the chance. In this ACLU newsletter, you can find a photo of all of us (page 6).
And today the California Supreme Court heard arguments in our case. No matter what the government and the courts say, Gillian and I know we are married in our hearts. I know that we’re on the right side of history, and maybe the change won’t happen in our lifetimes. I didn’t expect my small action back in the spring of 1992 to make a difference, and yet in just a few months same-sex couples employed by the University of Chicago had the same benefits as married straight couples. I am now an employee of that institution, and I wouldn’t have been able to accept my current position here if they hadn’t been able to offer me those benefits.
I am exceedingly grateful and exceedingly hopeful. I know things might not go our way in California. Even so, I know we’re on the right side of history, and it’s just a matter of time.