Thursday, August 12, 2010

Judge Walker Lifts Stay, but Imposes a New Temporary Stay -- WTF?

     This morning, SHE and I went to the Beverly Hills Municipal Court building in hopes of getting married.  We arrived shortly before 9:00 and were the first same sex couple in line awaiting Judge Walker's promised announcement (between nine and noon) that would possibly lift the stay from enforcement of California Proposition 8.  If he lifted the stay, as Governor Schwarzenegger (Republican) and Attorney General Brown (Democrat) proposed, there was the possibility that a window would be opened in which same sex couples in California could be legally married.  The question was how long the window would remain open before a ruling from a higher court slammed it shut.  SHE and I weren't going to miss a possible chance to marry.

     We sat and waited, while an endless stream of opposite sex couples passed us, approached the clerk's window, and received their marriage licenses within a matter of minutes.  After an hour of waiting for Judge Walker's decision, we'd watched about four or five opposite sex couples be whisked off into a private room by a justice of the peace and emerge less than ten minutes later happily married.  The clerks were kind and supportive of us as we waited, constantly pushing refresh on our smart phone's Google search "Judge Walker Stay."  County workers hopped on and off the elevators across the waiting area, smiling and giving us thumbs up, hoping for the best.

     More same sex couples arrived, each hoping to have their unions recognized by the state as marriages, hoping to have their loving commitments affirmed and backed up by the law.  The news media arrived.  First just a few stations, then the newspapers and more networks all wanting interviews.  SHE and I were dressed in khaki shorts and matching pink t-shirts.  We hadn't thought ahead about the possibility of being on the news when we were getting dressed.  We just wanted to get a marriage license so we could be married.  Now, I was wishing I had on a tie or at least a button down shirt and a nice pair of jeans, thankfully I'd taken the time to shave and trim my nose hair. (Having been on the road for the past month, the trim was much needed.)

     The news interviews began in full force.  ABC, CBS, NPR, LA Times, LA Weekly, NBC, LGBT POV, KMX 1070, etc.  FOX was absent.  

     The questions were similar:  "Why now?"  "First in line, you must really want to get married?"  "Why not wait until you can have a large wedding with family and friends?" "Why not wait until you are sure that your marriage won't be declared invalid by a higher court?"  "What does marriage mean to you?"  Etc.

     Our answers followed:  "We don't want to miss a window, if there is to be one."  "Time is not a luxury.  If the opportunity to be married arises, we're going to take it before the other side has a chance to take it away again."  "We're getting married because that's what two people who love each other do."  Etc.

     More same sex couples arrived, sat on the bench or leaned against walls, eyes fixed to their Google searches, hoping for the chance to be married.  More opposite sex couples arrived, walked up to the windows, got their marriage licenses, and left to be married.

     As tensions mounted in the same sex couples, news reporters, and courthouse staff, adrenaline pumped through my body, the physical manifestation of my emotions, my hope for the chance to marry the man that I love.  The small waiting area overflowed with same sex couples as opposite sex couples navigated the crowd to get their licenses.  

     11:00.  Nothing. 11:15.  Nothing.  11:45.  Still nothing.  11:55.  Nada.  12:00.  I felt like I was going to vomit.  12:01.  Still no news on the internet.  12:03.  Couples squeezed into the waiting space, wall to wall.  12:05.  News reporters asked us if we'd heard anything yet. 12:10.  The courthouse staff apologized that they had no information yet.  Then the news: on the cell phone of couple dressed in white named Tim and Floyd, Logo News reported that Judge Walker had denied the stay.   

     The room erupted in cheers.  Couples embraced one another and then split to hug the strangers next to them.  The news reporters' cameras flashed, pressed against the windows from outside.  We lined up, ready to join into the succession of opposite sex couples that had been receiving their marriage licenses.  SHE and I were first in line.  Smiles.  Tears.  Exhales.  EQUALITY!  This was the moment we'd been waiting for since November 2008.  More news reports flashed on smart phone screens informing us that Judge Walker had denied the stay.

     We stood and waited.  And waited.  The court workers apologized.  There was still no official word from the county.  Then, a text message on someone's phone informed us that Judge Walker had issued another temporary stay.  Jovana Lara (who BTW is absolutely gorgeous and a sweetheart to boot.  Ryan Owens is very hot.) sadly relayed the news from her smart phone that the AP was reporting that Judge Walker released the stay but then issued an additional temporary stay.  There were to be no marriages for our kind today.

     Shoulders dropped.  Tears fell.  Couples embraced.  We all stood.  Depleted.  Motionless.  At a loss.  

     Then, one of the clerks asked all of us to move to the back of the waiting room, so that the opposite sex couples could come to the front of the line to receive their marriage licenses.  We surrendered our spots in line.

     Same sex couples trickled out, quietly.  Reporters asked for reactions, comments.  More TV cameras, flashes, confusion, anger, loss, sadness...  

     Opposite sex couples trickled in, some in tuxedos and white dresses.

     SHE and I were the first couple to arrive and we were the last to leave.  We arrived with hopes of equality.  We left those hopes still in tact, but hit once again in the gut with the reality that we are still second class citizens.

SHE and I at the Beverly Hills Municipal Court awaiting the announcement.


IASoupMama said...

Much love to you and SHE. You will get this... And the minute you do, register for fun stuff so we can send you wonderful men a gift!

Much love always, and thanks for spending a heartbeat with us this summer -- I can't think of much that has made me happier than seeing you happy!

Leslie said...

First off, let me say, as a fellow ex-Catholic, I'm in love with your blog. It's intelligent, funny and I found myself laughing and crying and nodding in so many places. It was cathartic. (And mildly embarrassing, but anyway...)

Secondly, what a terrible experience. I'm kind of amazed that the straight couples witnessing all this could even go through with their own plans, knowing that another group of tax-paying citizens was being turned away right in front of them.

I hope you can take heart, though, in the fact that this won't last forever. I don't think any decent person *really* believes that the general populace will somehow benefit from the further depreciation of an already disenfranchised group. The Supreme Court never will (hello, 14th Amendment!).

Equal marriage will happen. It has to. And Prop 8 will die the slow, painful death it deserves -- among the most shameful pieces of legislation ever produced.

(In much fewer words: thanks for blogging!)

Buffy said...

I fervently hope you two will be able to marry by the 18th. This vile mess has gone on long enough.

"We don't want to miss a window, if there is to be one."

That's how my wife and I ended up among the 18,000 couples married during the previous window. Under better circumstances we would have taken longer to plan our wedding, but we didn't have that luxury as most heterosexual couples do. Instead we had to rush everything so we could marry while we had the chance.

Sick, sick, sick.

Heretic Tom said...

Thanks for the comments and the support. It was roller coaster day (and then surreal as our faces were on the national news--we really should have dressed up--LOL), but now we're hopeful that next week we and other CA couples be able to get our marriage licences.

Buffy, your experience has been ours as well. How sick that we have to rush and leap through windows of opportunity to secure our civil rights. We didn't marry in 2008, because we weren't ready. We made the decision to work on the No on 8 campaign, to talk to family and friends, and work for the rights of all same sex couples, hoping that Prop 8 would be defeated and that we could get married and have a ceremony at a time of our choosing with family and friends. We missed out. This time we won't. We'll get the papers and the civil rights taken care of and have a ceremony at a later date. Not ideal, but we'll do what we must to secure our rights and our family's well being.

Thanks again for your support!

Glenn Ingersoll said...

My husband & I married at the last minute in 2008, the weekend before election day. While I'd always been in favor of gay people being able to marry, should they want to, after the California Supreme Court acknowledged that right, it became personal -- did *I* want to get a marriage license? If I did, did I want a ceremony? Every month or so that summer/fall K or I would make some sort of would-you-want-to or what-do-you-think conversational gambit until in October, my birthday coming up, I decided what I wanted was to be surrounded by friends & family (just the ones we were closest to), saying sweet things aloud to my sweetheart, and having the state there to add words of approval and support -- the State, yes, the greater body of society saying for the first time, YES -- yes, we want you, yes, you are us not them, yes, you are included, yes, you are just like everybody else and get the ordinary and special honors granted to citizens and blessed with community.

So our ceremony was last minute because I didn't trust the voters of California to do the right thing. So many did! That was the bright spot, that MILLIONS voted YES. Yes to Us! To All of Us! Not to say I wasn't deeply hurt by the other millions who chose to push the pain button. And the greater weight of their fat fingers has held it down.

What strikes me about the idea that returning the option of marriage to All the people of California is how unrevolutionary it would be -- same sex marriages are being conducted, legally and daily, in Iowa, Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. How would California marriages be different?