I am running on fumes so this might not be very coherent. Jeannine and I just got back from the first same-sex marriage to be officiated in California since our state's Supreme Court had the courage to do what all but one of our politicians failed to do and gave the right to marriage to all of this state's citizens. My original plan was to stand outside the San Francisco City Hall with other supporters, to run against the professional hatemongers of the Westboro Baptist Church, who invaded our state to peddle their bigotry. Instead, we ended up inside City Hall, smack-dab in the middle of the cake-cutting ceremony for that historic marriage.
Jeannine and I met up in front of the City Hall around 3:30pm, when the only ones there were a few (and I mean very few) anti-gay protestors carrying signs and a bunch of SFPD and County Sheriff personnel. A Westboro van full of placards - which I dubbed the Hatemobile - was running a circuit around the park in front of City Hall, followed by a similar van but this one run by pro-Islam protestors ordering people to convert to Muslims. Irrational hatred makes for strange bedfellows.
The scene was pretty dead, so we went ahead into City Hall, so I could at least figure out where I'd be going tomorrow when I start my volunteer work. Once inside, we noticed a bunch of cameras on a second-story balcony overlooking the main hall, and we tentatively made our way over to see what was what. That's where we found ourselves right outside the Mayor's office, with a white wedding cake surrounded by more television and photo cameras than I've ever seen. Obviously this was going to be where Mayor Newsom would meeting the press and the lovely couple would be cutting their cake after Newsom officiated the marriage in his office.
At first, I really wanted to get out of there. The hallway was filled with about 70% press, 25% friends of the couple, and 5% lookie-loos like us. I felt like I was intruding on what should be a private affair, even if the hallway was filled with so much press. But, as long as we kept ourselves edged back on the periphery of the crowd, I felt we were not imposing. So we positioned ourselves against the wall, where pillars (and people) blocked any view of the cake ceremony.
By about a half-hour before the ceremony, the place got ridiculously packed, and security had to clear a path for the guests to get out once the ceremony ended. Jeannine got tangled up sitting on one of the hallway benches, and she nearly fell onto Tom Ammiano when she tried to get untangled. There was much clapping as the lucky couple and Newsom came out to cut the cake, give some speeches, and take a few questions from the media.
Now, up until today, I've hated Newsom. He's not really delivered on straightening out San Francisco's corrupt and inefficient way of government, but that would take a miracle worker so I can't really blame him for that. What turned me off to Slick Gavin was the unsubstantiated smear he made on Obama the day of the California primary, followed by the craven way he handled the Olympic torch run debacle. But in that hall, seeing the faces of all those people who waited so long and fought so hard for this day, the joy in the eyes of the invited, I suddenly realized that I had been wrong. What Newsom did in 2004 may have simply been a political maneuver that benefited him in progressive San Francisco, but it could just have easily gone the other way and destroyed his career beyond local politics. The Democratic Party elite were almost calling for his head in 2004, and few thought he then had any chance of progressing on to gubernatorial or even presidential politics. It was an act of bravery, the kind of thing we should expect from our politicians, to stand as a statesman for what is right and not simply what is popular.
So in that hallway amid all that excitement, I got a little caught up in things. After Newsom ended his speech and the applause was going, I yelled out "GAVIN FOR GOVERNOR!". That went over well, there were a few laughs, but then someone replied "Why not President?" and I, like a complete retard, yelled out "PRESIDENT!" And that got some shooshes. It was a yell too far.
We stayed through the ceremony, clapping and hooting frequently, and then made our way outside. We already knew there'd be a much larger crowd, as we heard them yelling, even from the other side of the building, when 5:01pm struck and same-sex marriage became legal in California; but we had no idea of the size:
The crowd stretched out into the park across the street of City Hall. As we came out, there was a Westboro nut screaming about how God hates this and God hates that, so I yelled at him to stop telling God what to do. One of the Westboro signs stated "Fag Enablers Doom Nation", but I didn't get the chance to get a decent picture of myself with it. We hung out for awhile and enjoyed the chaos, but once it became obvious that no other local luminaries would be coming out, the crowd dispersed and we came home.
I cannot describe how giddy I am, as I was literally a witness to history. When I was a kid, I remember reading about the Civil Rights Movement, and counted myself lucky to be of a generation of Americans who would not need to bear the kind of stains that previous Americans did for allowing the institutionalized mistreatment of racial minorities. Everyone was equal under the law now, I naively thought, but it wouldn't be till I got older that I realized that this didn't apply to homosexual citizens in my country. My generation will have to bear the stain of that, but after days like today, my hope grows that the next generation of Americans will be able to state the following words without some bigoted qualification:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.Starting tonight, all Californians will be free to pursue their happiness through the covenant of marriage. That I was there to witness this freedom born was both a privilege and a joy.