Bill and Kelly’s community made sure their family enjoyed every benefit of marriage, starting with a wedding.
On May 15, 2008, the California Supreme Court handed down a landmark verdict: Kelly and I were no longer banned from getting married. That night, after nine years and two children, I was finally able to propose to the love of my life. There were tears, so it was fitting that our daughter captured the moment on the video camera we’ve used to record every moist event in our family’s life together, from her sticky birth to the time she threw up on her grandfather.
Kelly insisted that we marry the first day such unions would become legal, June 17, before—as he so presciently put it—”they try to take it away from us.” Bastards. That’s what I was thinking. Our children will no longer be bastards! Our plan to correct this problem was to take the kids to the county courthouse, pay for our license, and get hitched then and there. But our next-door neighbor had other ideas.
“You finally get the right to marry, and you’re not having a wedding?” cried Judy. “You have to have a wedding!” I told her we were on a tight timetable—three weeks—and besides, a wedding wasn’t in our budget. Judy was hearing none of it. “We’ll help you,” she said. “We’ll make it happen.”
“Who’ll make it happen?” I asked.
“Your neighbors. The Ladies of La Punta Drive!” I wondered why it was so important for her to see us get married, so I asked, and she answered: “Because we love your family, and we want you to have what we have.” A moment I’ll never forget.
So the Ladies of La Punta kicked into high gear. Mary, an attorney, forever reversed my low opinion of lawyers by baking us a spectacular, three-tier wedding cake. Alexa augmented a $100 flower budget by grabbing a machete and taking to the street like some feral florist, whacking down enough greenery to turn our living room into a lovely, low-cost garden. As for Judy, she took pictures with a broken wrist, while Lisa handled the nuptial food, demonstrating what every parent of a pregnant bride has known for years: there’s nothing like Costco for a quickie wedding reception. Neil, our daughter’s godfather and an Episcopal priest, officiated. Our attendants were our children: Elizabeth, then 7, and James, 2-and-a-half. Elizabeth called herself our groomsmaid and never looked more radiant. Or proud. James froze on the aisle, as 2-year-olds have done throughout time. Still, he managed to strew a path of leaves for his parents as they strode toward a day they thought would never arrive.
Nothing can compete with the birth of your kids for sheer depth of joy, but our wedding day was a close second. Kelly and I repeated the vows we’d made to each other at a religious blessing of our union at All Saints Church in 2001. Only this time we were able to use the words “lawfully wedded.” We were married, in the eyes of our god, our state, our friends and family, but, most importantly, our children.
The reception rocked. Way back in 1995, I had written the gay wedding episode of Roseanne, the first time a national television audience had witnessed such a(n illegal) thing. At his sitcom reception, Martin Mull, who played one of the grooms, looked aghast at the wedding cake topper Roseanne had concocted for him. She explained herself in her trademark nasal whine: “I couldn’t find anything with two grooms, so I ripped off the bride and stuck on one of D.J.’s action heroes from Pocahontas.”
I loved that cake topper and had kept it as a souvenir. When Mary told me about the three-level, 18-million-calorie confection she planned to bake, I dug the topper out of storage. And once again, these two little men, plastic but clearly meant for each other, took their place on the frosting, this time as a legally married couple: Mr. and Mr. Captain John Smith. Our children thought it was funny.
But as Elizabeth and James laughed and smiled, watcing our wedding day unfold, what neither of them realized was this: though it may have seemed to be about us, this day was very much about the two of them. Marriage has a way of providing kids with a sense of stability most children take for granted. Until people are allowed to vote on it.
Five months after our wedding Prop 8 took marriage rights away from families like ours that hadn’t taken advantage of the brief window of opportunity to marry. My family was lucky. The state Supreme Court declared that all marriages entered into during that brief burst of freedom would remain safe and valid. Which means that for over four years now, our two kids have been able to stand on their playground without having to wonder why everybody else’s parents can be married but theirs can’t.
A feeling, thanks to last week’s historic election, that will soon be shared by thousands of children in Maine, Maryland and Washington state. On November 6, the citizens of those states made history by standing up for justice and turning the tide of marriage equality in America. Hopefully, the U.S. Supreme Court is paying attention. They have the opportunity this June to strike down not only the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act, which bans federal recognition of our marriages, but also to reverse Prop 8, once again allowing all Californians to marry the person they love.
Just in time for our fifth wedding anniversary, and the inevitable celebration by the Ladies of La Punta Drive.
This is an excerpt from Prop. 8: The Color of Pee-Pee.