Tuesday, June 17, 2008

LOVE(ing) Story

"I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard's and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That's what Loving, and loving, are all about."

~Mildred Loving June 15, 2007

On June 16th, 2008, Phyllis Lyon and Del Martinthese, two women who have been in a committed relationship for fifty-five years, were able to become legally married in San Fransisco.

"When we first got together, we were not really thinking about getting married, we were thinking about getting together,' Lyon said to laughter, standing behind Martin's wheelchair. 'I think it's a wonderful day. We are very happy.'

'Ditto,' said Martin." (Yahoo News)

Why-oh why-does anyone question the validity of this union? These women have been together longer than most couples of the opposite sex that I know. I just wish everyone would get over it already, and see that love knows no boundaries of race or gender. As I ask all people deeply concerned about same sex marriage as the downfall of mankind, really...

Can you please explain to me how this affects you personally?

A few weeks ago I watched as a teary eyed Ellen gave the news that she would be marrying long time partner Portia DeRossi. I found myself teary-eyed for them. To tell the truth, Ellen is so damn funny and sorta cute and that Portia is such an incredibly beautiful woman, if I weren't such a flaming heterosexual I'd want to date either one of them myself. Sorry, I digress in attempts to add some humor to honor the great Ms DeGeneres.

I was reminded of a conversation I had with a friend of mine, David, on my front stoop about 15 or so years ago. He stopped by because his partner, who was a special education teacher, was attending a wedding of a co-worker, and couldn't bring David with him for fear of losing his job. I remarked how sad I thought that was, and how I took for granted the fact that my husband and I could go anywhere we wanted, hold hands any time we wanted, and introduce ourselves any way we chose to. We never had to hide we were a couple from anyone. I just never got that conversation out of my mind. I had grown up in the theatre, surrounded by gay couples free to be, well, couples. And because of that I was comfortable with it, and never thought more deeply about it until that night, speaking with my friend. My friend who stopped by because he felt left out, not accepted by his partner's side. Those friends stayed in that relationship for close to 15 years before they parted, much more amicably than any straight married couple I ever met.

I also had a similar conversation a few years ago with a theatre friend who has been involved in a committed relationship with her partner for years. Now in their 40's/50's, one is a teacher, and the other a guidance counselor at the same high school. Most of the students have likely figured out the status of their relationship, but since they are so respected by the kids, none of them make a big deal out of it. However, K, the counselor, shared with me how parents, unaware they are a couple, will call her or come in and tell her, "Put my kid in another teacher's class. I don't want that woman anywhere near my daughter." They are totally oblivious to the fact that they are confiding in the very person "that" woman goes home to every night. As a matter of fact the very woman who "that" woman has gone home to for well over a decade. It's so amazing that, even in 2008, so many Americans, who claim to embrace God given civil rights, demonstrate such a high level of ignorance and complete lack of tact.

It can be no coincidence that this morning Rick, my loving husband of three years, left out an article that he just knew I would be interested in. It was about Loving Vs Virginia, the historic Supreme court case that won the right of inter-racial couples to marry. Last year was it's 40th anniversary.

Meaning in my lifetime (albeit I wasn't actually here yet, but close enough) it was illegal for couples of different races to marry. It was just as passionately debated against as the downfall of the human race, as the fierce protests occurring today about same sex couples marrying. Seems ludicrous now, 40 years later that African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics, Asians and Caucasians, could not legally marry each other in every state, doesn't it?

Well it does to me. I can only hope that forty years from now, when I'm 80, I can hear my grandchildren say the same about the fight to keep same sex couples from marrying. I really am praying for the day that I hear, "Grandma, was it really once illegal for two consenting adults to marry in the United States of America????"

I try to keep in mind that humanity is thousands of years old, and so if inter-racial marriage wasn't legal until 1967, then there's hope for us yet. After all, forty years is only a minuscule blip on the evolutionary screen.

On May 2, 2008 Mildred Loving passed on from this life and was reunited with her late husband Richard, who passed away in 1975. I could post forever on my own thoughts about her case, but of course, no one says it better than she did, in a statement released for the 40th anniversary of the case that "gave" her the "right" to marry the man she loved.

Loving for All

By Mildred Loving*

Prepared for Delivery on June 12, 2007,
The 40th Anniversary of the Loving vs. Virginia Announcement

"When my late husband, Richard, and I got married in Washington, DC in 1958, it wasn't to make a political statement or start a fight. We were in love, and we wanted to be married.

We didn't get married in Washington because we wanted to marry there. We did it there because the government wouldn't allow us to marry back home in Virginia where we grew up, where we met, where we fell in love, and where we wanted to be together and build our family. You see, I am a woman of color and Richard was white, and at that time people believed it was okay to keep us from marrying because of their ideas of who should marry whom.

When Richard and I came back to our home in Virginia, happily married, we had no intention of battling over the law. We made a commitment to each other in our love and lives, and now had the legal commitment, called marriage, to match. Isn't that what marriage is?

Not long after our wedding, we were awakened in the middle of the night in our own bedroom by deputy sheriffs and actually arrested for the "crime" of marrying the wrong kind of person. Our marriage certificate was hanging on the wall above the bed. The state prosecuted Richard and me, and after we were found guilty, the judge declared:

"Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix." He sentenced us to a year in prison, but offered to suspend the sentence if we left our home in Virginia for 25 years exile.

We left, and got a lawyer. Richard and I had to fight, but still were not fighting for a cause. We were fighting for our love.

Though it turned out we had to fight, happily Richard and I didn't have to fight alone. Thanks to groups like the ACLU and the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, and so many good people around the country willing to speak up, we took our case for the freedom to marry all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And on June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that, "The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men," a "basic civil right."

My generation was bitterly divided over something that should have been so clear and right. The majority believed that what the judge said, that it was God's plan to keep people apart, and that government should discriminate against people in love. But I have lived long enough now to see big changes. The older generation's fears and prejudices have given way, and today's young people realize that if someone loves someone they have a right to marry.

Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don't think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the "wrong kind of person" for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people's religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people's civil rights.

I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard's and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That's what Loving, and loving, are all about."

1 comment:

alana aka bellacita said...

zen...beautiful post...i couldnt have said it better myself! surprising how we've made many strides and come a long way in society yet we're nowhere near where we need to be. we all know how rare love is...why cant people be happy when 2 people, ANY 2 people, have found such a rare gem and want to celebrate that union??