As Moya and I walked to the Federal Building for the Prop 8 closing arguments yesterday (full transcript), I remembered all the times we’d walked that way to take Lucy to preschool, as well as the times when the marriage cases were before the California Supreme Court and we’d had to wade through Prop 8 supporters and opponents to get into the state building to take Lucy to preschool.
We entered the Federal building, took off our shoes, removed our laptops, got through security, and went to wait for an elevator to take us to the 19th floor where we planned to watch the arguments in the overflow room. We were told that the overflow room was already full. No problem, we’ll just wait, I thought.
After we got through security we saw a good friend of ours who works in the building but couldn’t stop to chat much because we needed to get in line for the overflow room. We waited for the elevator and noticed that one of the men waiting with us looked familiar (it was David Boies). He was talking with a pregnant woman and said to her, “we have mostly friends here today.”
We got up to the 19th floor and got to the back of a line of approximately 20-30 people who were waiting for a space in the overflow room. Moya chatted with the man standing in line behind us while I sat on the floor and configured apps on my gadgets. At some point Moya mentioned Maggie Gallagher and I said something about how I’d like to invite Maggie over for a cocktail so she could see how much our family is more like hers than different, how our marriage isn’t threatening anything or anyone, and how our daughter is thriving and happy and healthy. Eventually a woman came by and counted the people in line. By then there were 70 or 80 people in line and I stood up to be counted and then chatted with Moya and the man who was behind us in line. He talked about his high school son and his daughter in college and mentioned he lives in Southern California and that we should come visit sometime.
The first overflow room was full. A second overflow room was opened up and we were counted as we walked in (I was number 30). As we were walking past framed old photos, the man behind us in line mentioned the photos and that he’d been here in January for two weeks for the Prop 8 trial. As we waited to walk into the overflow room I asked him what kind of work he did that allowed him 2 weeks off to fly up to San Francisco and watch a trial. He leaned towards me, put his hand on my shoulder and said, with a smile, “I’m your enemy.” I thought he was being sarcastic and joking. I laughed. We continued some conversation about how people on both sides of Prop 8 have more in common than they might think.
Apparently he had a similar conversation in January during the Prop 8 trial, about the photos in the wall, about commonalities amongst people on both sides of Prop 8. Davina Kotulski wrote, on January 22, 2010:
I started the morning with gulping down my latte. While I was doing this and admiring the historic photos of San Francisco on the 19th floor in the federal building, I struck up a conversation with the other person in the hallway. It turned out that I was talking to Brian Woodward from the California Family Council. We talked about how we could find our commonalities and exchanged business cards.
When we got into the overflow room, we felt lucky that we got a seat in the second row behind a large screen. There were smaller screens on tables with chairs and large screens in front of rows of benches. I checked Twitter and noticed people commenting about Maureen Dowd, in sunglasses and holding a Starbucks cup, sitting in the back of the other overflow room. Brian and Moya and I were chitchatting and checking our devices before the Ted Olson’s closing argument began. Olson was followed by Terry Stewart, attorney for City/County of San Francisco, and then the attorney for the governor and attorney for the attorney general were given time. I loved that the state attorneys simply stood up and waived their time and said nothing in defense of Prop 8.
Then Judge Walker went over some marriage application forms with Claude Kolm representing the Alameda County Clerk Recorder. I was never really sure why Alameda County was represented. Judge Walker provided some comic relief when he said (from pages 68-69 of the transcript):
We didn’t check Alameda County, but just this morning checked San Francisco, Orange County and Imperial County. It appears on applications for marriage licenses that in San Francisco there is a box for groom, there is a box for bride and that’s labeled optional.
And in Orange County (sic) there is a bullet point for groom, a bullet point for bride, and one labeled none.
(Laughter.) And I think the same is true in Orange County (sic). And my understanding, although I personally didn’t go through the exercise, in the Orange County application, which you can apply for a marriage license online, if you fill out, say, groom and then fill out the data and then punch next, which would call up the other party, you can put in groom again. It doesn’t give you an error message.
The morning session was done and we claimed a spot on a bench near a power outlet for later so we could re-energize MacBooks and Blackberry and Droid and iPhone after lunch. As we left the overflow room for lunch we were handed a yellow ticket marked with an 8 to get back in. Our friend Ed had brought us some delicious sandwiches. A college friend of Moya’s, Merlin Nygren, met us to have lunch. We tramped down 9 flights of stairs (because there were lines for the elevators) to the 10th floor cafeteria to have lunch.
Moya’s college friend works in the building and knows his way around so he helped us find the right elevator bank to get back to the 19th floor. The elevator doors closed. When they opened again, Cleve Jones and Dustin Lance Black, among others, got on. We mentioned to Cleve that we really appreciated his appearance at Lucy’s school‘s civil rights assembly last month, and I noticed that Dustin Lance Black is way cuter in person than on-screen.
While scanning a twitter list of people writing about the Prop 8 trial, I noticed there a lot of snark and sarcasm from both sides. Most people, on either side, myself included, wrote a lot of dehumanizing and disrespectful commentary about each other. We are all, after all, human, and deserving of basic rights and respects. I wonder if the communities of No on Prop 8 and Yes on Prop 8, as well as our society as a whole, might be helped with some sort of truth and reconciliation hearings regarding rights and opinions and harm and so on.
I also noticed that the Alliance Defense Fund had posted a Bible verse on Twitter, just after lunch, that reminded me of being told “I’m your enemy.” The Yes on 8 people also blogged that morning at 8:18am and described Ted Olson as their nemesis. Why are these people so interested in battle and fighting and enemies instead of extending grace and compassion and bridging divides and increasing understanding? When I went to grab a screenshot of the ADF’s tweet, I noticed that the Alliance Defense Fund has blocked me. I’m still snarky. I’m not sure if I’m honored by their block or not.
My high school friend Jeff Koertzen showed up and sat behind us for the afternoon, providing peanut gallery comic relief. Thanks, Jeff!
The afternoon started with Charles Cooper’s closing argument. During his argument he said. “Our submission, obviously, is that sexual orientation is not an immutable trait, that is an accident of — an accident of birth” (page 121 of the transcript). He said, “religions that condemn homosexual conduct also teach love of gays and lesbians.” (can someone actually condemn and love? Condemn is often about disgust) He discussed not wanting to invalidate the 18,000 marriages, and even Maggie Gallagher blogged “Cooper fighting hard to protect 18k gay marriages.” I don’t understand how they can hold and defend this conflict of supporting Moya and my marriage (as part of the 18,000) but not supporting other gay and lesbian marriages.
Then, finally, there was a short break, Ted Olson gave a rebuttal statement, the overflow room cheered and clapped at the end and we were done.
Moya and Ed and I headed over to Hastings for the press conference. We ran into Brian, who we’d met that morning, and Moya asked him more about his role and why he was at the trial. He said he works for the California Family Council — who we know was a major supporter of Prop 8. We asked if he could point out Andy Pugno. He said he could introduce us. I said that Andy Pugno had contributed to harm and damage to my family and families like mine and I didn’t want to meet him. I also was uncomfortable standing so close to the Yes on 8 people who were coming up to him to talk, asking him to watch their things while they did their press conference. I realized I don’t really want to be associated with any of those people, just as much as they (or at least they say) don’t want to be associated with me.
Brian is a friendly guy. He seems conflicted. We shared stories about our kids and about travel and general chitchat. He showed me pictures of his kids. I showed him photos of our kid. I talked about how religious beliefs in my family convince so many people in my family, and friends from my childhood, to shun me because I’m gay. He works for an organization that has specifically chosen to fight Moya and my right to be married and define our family. The organization he works for claims to support California families, but it doesn’t support our family. His boss, Ron Prentice, said, on August 29, 2008 (coincidentally our daughter’s birthday), “”Same-sex “marriage” is the most radical human experiment yet, putting children at risk and threatening generational stability!”
Brian stayed for the Yes on Prop 8 part of the press conference and then gave me a hug and said goodbye before Ted Olson and David Boies had their press conference. Reflecting back on what I’d said about Maggie Gallagher, I extended an invitation again to come over for dinner, have a cocktail, and continue our conversation. He has our contact information if he’d like to keep in touch. I wonder why he couldn’t stay to hear our side.
What divides us as people is always much smaller than what can join us together as a community.