Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Shelly and Ellen
Meet Shelly and Ellen. They have been together more than 30 years. This morning we spotted a photo of them in the middle of Newsweek magazine, taken last week when Judge Walker ruled that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional. You'll see that in this KALW story there is yet another photo of Shelly and Ellen.
There's also this famous photo, taken that day nearly two years ago when California passed Proposition 8, the controversial ban on gay marriage. Then there's this one, taken this past January when the proposition itself went on trial in San Francisco. And this photo is perhaps the most poignant: taken back in May 2008 when, for the second brief period in history, gay marriage was a reality in California.
I know Shelly and Ellen. They are longtime residents of my hometown, and have been active in local politics for many years. My parents are good friends with them and share many of their social and political opinions. I've come to realize lately that these women epitomize what should be real celebrity: people who represent an idea, who aren't afraid to react, and who return, time and again, to the values they hold true.
Last week I heard a lively interview featuring the plaintiffs of Prop 8, Kristin Perry and her partner Sandy Stier, as well as Jordan Lorence, senior counsel and senior vice president in the Office of Strategic Initiatives at the Alliance Defense Fund. I was listening in the car with my boyfriend as we explored the strawberry fields of central California. It struck me then that here we were witnessing a historic precedent.
This is the civil rights issue of our generation. Racism and sexism are still prevalent but homophobia and its social implications have become the Jim Crow laws of the early twenty-first century. Propositions, trials, marriages and government-regulated "annulments" are our looong way of walking around a fairly simple point: marriage is a civil right that should be granted to consenting adults of any gender. And as absurd as this system sometimes all seems, it is at its heart a democratic process: chock full of bureaucracy, but democratic to the end.
I just hope that, by the time this case gets completely resolved, we as a country can recognize that same-sex marriage is tantamount to interracial or interfaith marriage, all unions that are equally sound. And when that day comes, maybe Shelly and Ellen will be on the cover of Time magazine.