When It Alteration Finds

Reading the post-mortem on yesterday’s California Supreme Court decision to void the marriages performed in San Francisco, my first reaction was one of utter depression, if not surprise. But the more I looked back at the photos of those weddings, the more I read about couples who were hurt and bruised but not broken, the more I realized what was not lost in Thursday’s decision.

A couple of years ago, I met Jack and Pete at a Fourth of July party. Pete was a huge cowboy from Texas, with the ten-gallon hat and the twang and the loud shirts to identify him. Jack was a tiny little nebbishy guy with thick glasses and a high-pitched voice. We sat upstairs in my neighbor’s apartment, talking and talking. They’d been together 14 years, since meeting in college in Austin. They had a hilarious first date: Pete showed up with flowers for Jack, who was intimidated by the gesture and so nervous he threw up.

We traded relationship stories: my husband’s funny and sweet proposal, which came in the middle of a fight we were having about work; the moment Jack realized Pete was his soulmate: when Jack’s father died and they took a plane back to Seattle, and the whole long flight Pete never let go of his hand.

California’s ruling was a setback for the rights couples like Jack and Pete should enjoy. But it was not, and should never be seen as, a setback to the love these couples share, to the lives they’ve built together. Those lives are their own truth: that love and fidelity are stronger than the courts, stronger than the hatred of people like “Rev.” Sheldon, and will endure no matter how many people stand up in press conferences and say, “wrong, bad, invalid.”

As a married girl of some years now, I try to avoid giving advice to newlyweds. It makes me feel old. But as someone with experience in this field, I would like to tell the San Francisco husbands and husbands and wives and wives, a life lived together in love is the strongest thing on earth. If you have it, have faith in it and in your own strength, and keep holding hands.

One of the reasons you have witnesses at a wedding is to emphasize that others have the responsibility for helping you in your married life. There are a lot of straight married people out here who witnessed your unions, who smiled and laughed and cried and sent flowers and cheered you on. We’re still here. We’re going to keep fighting to help you. We’re going to do whatever we can.

A.