My friend E called at 11:00 p.m. I could hardly hear her over the blaring of car horns and the sounds of people screaming with joy.
"Oh my God, oh my God, oh God, you should see this! It's like--people are dancing in the street! They're sitting on their cars and dancing and cheering and crying and hugging each other! I've never seen anything like it! It's just this--outpouring..." and then I couldn't hear her anymore.
C and I were just going to bed. We'd had a little gathering here, a few friends, and watched the returns together. When Ohio was announced and we knew the number of electoral votes would put him over the top, the tears started to flow. We broke out the champagne and then watched, cheering and crying, as the win became a mandate, became a kind of landslide. Could it be? Was it really? The cameras cut to pictures of Jesse Jackson weeping and pressing his finger gently to his lips as though with that small gesture he was comforting generations of souls who did not live to see this day but were seeing it now through him.
Two days later, and we're still processing. It's hard to take in that in our lifetimes we have lived through a miracle. I wish we had been in the streets that night. E said it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I believe her. It's so many things at once. Not only having a leader of integrity, someone we can respectin the White House, not only this beautiful Black family, but the sheer fact that it was done. They said it couldn't be done and we did it. Anything is now possible, for anyone--and that means me too. And you. Everyone.
At the same time I remember that it was E who called me when the California Supreme Court decision came out to allow gay marriage. Her voice overflowing with emotion, she announced, "Ali, I'm normal! The Supreme Court says so! My love is as valid as anyone else's!"
"You were always valid," I said. "With or without any Supreme Court ruling. But normal--I'm not so sure." We laughed. Who would want to be "normal," I thought. Now that the right to marry has been taken away--again--I'm looking at normal in a new light. Normal means just having the simple rights to lead your own life, including your love life, in as ordinary a way as anyone else. Ordinary can be holy.
Normal means that while C and I plan our wedding and talk about the guest list and the musicians and the vows and I start obsessing over finding the right dress--(off-white or flame-red or emerald green? Cover the flabby upper arms with lace sleeves or commit to nine months of daily long swims? How much cleavage?) While I get to occupy my mind with these burning questions, my friends should be able to be similarly taken up with thinking about whatever obsesses them instead of spending precious energy fighting for a basic civil right. Normal means you get to think about whatever you like.
My friends Randy and Michael joke that they've been married more times than anyone else--to each other. While any drunken pair of heterosexuals can make it legal in Vegas with the person they just met at the bar, these two have renovated a house, and seen each other through some stressful passages over seven years. I've lost count by now, but they've married in Canada, they got married in SF when it was legal for a minute back in '04, They had a non-legally binding big wedding in Berkeley, they married here in Oakland a couple of months ago. And I think they may have done it in Massachusetts and/or Vermont or New York. I wonder if I would have the stamina to put my heart out all those times in front of witnesses, knowing that these forces were arrayed to knock it down.
When a lesbian couple got married in my synagogue this past September, Rabbi David joked, "Another Kehilla couple rushing to the altar." These women have been together 25 years, raised a son together, buried parents, endured job changes and illnesses, maintained a stable home, been part of a spiritual community, and all the rest of it. The only thing they hadn't done is see their union legalized. Then they did. Now they see it taken away.
I refuse to see Prop 8 passing as anything more than a temporary setback. I am SURE we will restore justice, through the courts, through federal legislation ultimately, and mostly through just changing people's minds, allowing them to see what's been right in front of them all along--gay people shopping at the supermarket, gay people walking their dogs, dropping their kids off at school, going to work, having coffee. Gay people walking around the lake, driving cars, falling in love, having all the usual struggles to make it work, living their lives. How this affects anyone else's "traditional marriage" is beyond me.