Thank you Dad: I think I understand now

Me & My Dad

Originally uploaded by moyalynne

Thanks Dad

Originally uploaded by moyalynne

In my last post, I shouted-out to my mom – who brought our recent wedding to life with flowers (and in many other wonderful ways). In this post, I’d like to thank Dad. Because of him, I think I understand something I’ve been working on for awhile.

In 2004, when Leanne and I were walking down to City Hall on that beautiful Valentine’s Day, we were so excited — we were calling our whole family on our cell phones and telling them to get down to San Francisco as soon as they could to watch us get married! It was a spur of the moment — not exactly an elopement — but a real wedding. Not exactly legal though, as was determined later that year in August.

And my dad was not exactly thrilled. “Oh — You’re getting married,” he said, dot, dot, dot… His hesitance threw me. My parents have always been my biggest fans and love me and Leanne and our relationship in every way. I was confused at his reaction, and they didn’t make it down to San Francisco that day.

People asked me why was that? Why did he not come? We love your dad; he loves you. I puzzled too. Until just recently. Dad and Mom and family and friends turned out in flying colors for our wedding on October 5, 2008. And now I think I understand.

Of course: They don’t ever want to see their daughter hurt, neither by prejudice, nor by categorization into something lesser. Getting married on Valentine’s Day in 2004 was very special, but it wasn’t planned ahead, it wasn’t a party in front of all of our friends, and it wasn’t legal in the end. That’s not what they wanted to see for their daughter.

As Kate Kendell, Executive Director of the NCLR, said recently:

“Marriage is the institution and the vocabulary that we use to denote the highest level of a commitment between two people. It is what we do… This is about us and our relationships being able to be validated in the same way. No dad ever said ‘I can’t wait to dance at my daughter’s civil-union-domestic-partner-commitment ceremony.’ We dance at our children’s weddings. We get married.”

We quoted this passage at our wedding on October 5. My Dad can be heard laughing with joy at it in our wedding video. We played Sunrise, Sunset; I danced with my father. It was a beautiful day in every way, and it marked our legal marriage. And, I realize now, it was just as important to my parents as it was to Leanne and me.

I believe people know in their hearts what is right – even if they have to go through pain and discomfort to get there. It may take time, and it will take compassion, but we’ll get there, world. This is a simple message about love.

Carried in my heart

We were married last Sunday, October 5, out near Ocean Beach, surrounded by beautiful people, flowers, skies, and the great ocean.

There is so much to say about the ceremony and reception, but allow me to refer to my wife’s story, and also copy my brother’s picture, and just sum up the sweet conclusion to our wedding. After we wrapped up the poetic ceremony and fabulous reception at around 4p, the most die-hard guests came down with Leanne and me at last to Ocean Beach. Though we missed some people who had already come to the beach — and could have been walking further down while we frolicked — it sort of felt like we were part of the common tide. I took Lucy’s pocket kite out of my pocket and had a good run with it, actually getting it airborne — a nice metaphor for how I felt! The Enders family joined us and brought their own kite! Rob and Sam and McKenna and Will all tumbled around in the waves, of course pushing each other in. Loret scooped up Aislin from a scary encounter with a big wave, and Andy and Kristin watched bemused as I dipped my dress into the ocean while trying to fly the kite. Opting to spare their shoes, Alicia and Janice enjoyed the view from the Promenade while Leanne and I had to run rescue our shoes and purse, which were almost swept out to sea in that same huge wave!

family and kites on the beach

family and kites on the beach

A beautiful day that showed us many fortunes indeed.

Now that it’s been just over a week since our beautiful wedding day in the Tulip Garden, I’m still in a bit of a fog with all the things I’ve experienced, and all the things I still find to be mysterious.

Here are a few things I know about being legally married:

  • It takes a village. Of people — and places. To put together a party so big. And we are awed with gratitude for everyone who pitched in to make it a great day.
  • Every wedding dress should have pockets! Pockets rock.
  • Anyone should be lucky to have their child hand them flower petals while they recite their vows. It made our hearts melt.
  • It makes a huge difference to be a family recognized not only legally but under the general term of “marriage” — as Therese Stewart said, the word “marriage” matters; as Kate Kendell said, no father ever said he wanted to dance at his daughter’s civil-union-domestic-partnership-ceremony. “We dance at our children’s weddings. We get married.” It’s so much easier to describe ourselves now.
  • It’s all about love — within and for our community. I thought a lot about people who couldn’t make it for various reasons, and almost all of which mean they’re going through some sort of pain. I wished I could reach out and touch everyone who wasn’t there and let them know that they are indeed “carried in our hearts.”

Here’s what I DON’T know:

  • I still don’t know the mystery of how we became a family — I love how the Rev. Jerene Broadway and Rev. Jim Lowder, who performed our ceremony, described that as the work we’ve already done ourselves. Their work was merely to officiate the recognition of it.
  • I don’t know whether Prop 8 will pass and take our legal marriage away in November
  • I don’t know how to let people who would take it away know about our family, know just what this means, and above all know not to be afraid.

Maybe it will just happen slowly, naturally — well, with a bit of effort, as the kite lifts into the sky at dusk on a lovely fall day.

Love is patient and kind

Leanne and I are getting married soon, and we’ve been spending a long time working out our (excellent) vows. It’s great to take the time to re-appraise yourself of what is beautiful in your relationship — and in your partner. Often through this process, I have felt like all couples should have the opportunity to have a marriage celebration a decade after they first met: that’s when it’s really right to remind yourself of the strength of your relationship.

So it comes at no better time that I ask forgiveness of my fiancee-wife for accidentally posting a naked picture of her on Flickr! I did take it down as soon as I saw that Becky made a snarky comment (thanks Becky!) (after only being viewed 9 times). Leanne, forgive me, you are beautiful but my focus was really our daughter and her piggy-bank — I didn’t notice you in the corner! And if you are one of those lucky 9, please forgive me as well.

And now for another word on love:

(she forgives me!)

Licensed to marry

I think we took one just like this in 2004!What else, I asked Leanne this morning when we were in the county clerk’s office at San Francisco City Hall, can you do in a county clerk’s office besides get licensed to marry? “Register to vote?” she offered. We couldn’t think of a single other thing. Indeed, most of the couples we encountered today seemed to be just like us: going down to City Hall to get a marriage license. I never aspired to feeling so normal before, but there’s something so joyous in the fact that it is no circus, just the fact of a couple getting married, anymore.

Many of the pictures we took were nearly the exact same poses from that day in 2004 when Gavin Newsom opened up the licenses to everyone — except today when we got our marriage license, it was hardly as exciting — and yet very profoundly different. For one thing, we didn’t have to wait in line for five hours, but we simply made an appointment and showed up at 10am. For another, no news cameras. For a third, we don’t have to rush to actually have the ceremony on the same day as getting the license — and we can actually plan a wedding. Oh, and we have a four-year-old girl whom we adore (so we didn’t need the “planning for pregnancy” tips handed out with the license — thanks though!). Oh — and it’s legal.Put down the cigarettes!

It sort of sums it up, what we overheard while waiting for our form to be officialized (“now serving: number A40”): “After 20 years, I’m not nervous; I’m just excited!”

So there we have it. For the next three months, Leanne and I are officially licensed to marry. And we plan to execute it in style. Don’t worry — I don’t believe it’s lethal. In fact, after nearly 11 years together (and from those years, a huge pile of blog posts I migrated just today to WordPress that attests to how hard we’ve fought for our success), nothing could seem more regular, normal, human, and about time.

Prisoner of hope

wedding day

I’m so excited to confirm that long-lost pals Jim Lowder and Jerene Broadway have accepted our offer to come out and perform our wedding ceremony in October. I’m indebted to Jim for the concept of hope in general (see my previous post), and I’m extra indebted to Jerene for a recent email and shout-out to African American theologian Cornel West, as quoted in a recent Rolling Stone article:

The categories of optimism and pessimism don’t exist for me. I’m a blues man. A blues man is a prisoner of hope, and hope is a qualitatively different category than optimism. Optimism is a secular construct, a calculation of probability. Black folk in America have never been optimistic about the future – what have we had to be optimistic about? But we are people of hope. Hope wrestles with despair, but it doesn’t generate optimism. It just generates this energy to be courageous, to bear witness, to see what the end is going to be. No guarantee, unfinished, open-ended. I am a prisoner of hope. I’m going to die full of hope.

In making me aware of this quote, Jerene has kicked the entire concept of hope to the next level. I can only endeavor to be a prisoner of hope and abide by this thing I’ve been so compellingly recently drawn towards. It has occurred to me since giving birth to Lucy that having a child (in any of various ways) is itself the ultimate act of hope, and likewise it has also occurred to me that it provides indeed a precious reason to hope in general.

Jerene provides me with the biggest gift when she elaborates, referring to the Cornel West quote:

He is quoting the book of Zechariah when he refers to himself as a “prisoner of hope,” a phrase which has always captured my imagination. I resonate with his insistence that hope is the courageous choice, for I surely know that it is easier to be cynical & despairing than to be hopeful. I’m working very hard to live into that kind of hopefulness. From your writing, it sounds like you have chosen hope as your home. May you continue to reside there, welcoming others in.

Such beautiful words; I count myself lucky to receive them. Thanks Jerene.

Leanne interrupts me just now to tell me that one thing our daughter has marked in the latest catalog as a required birthday present is actually not for sale (the surfboard). Way to go Lucy! Nothing is beyond your reach. May you always be filled with this. May we all be so lucky to be prisoners of hope.

Chapel of Hope

On Thursday, May 15, it’s true, Bette Midler’s particularly brassy-voiced version of “Chapel of Love” was ringing through my head as I was running down Market Street trying to get to the California State Building by 10am, in time for the Supreme Court’s decision on In Re Marriage. (As you may remember,) It was a very hot day, and I was panting and sweaty by the time I reached the Supreme Court — not in good shape for my photo opp with Kate Kendell — but I was feeling surprisingly hopeful about the immediately pending decision on marriage.

It struck me that, having hope, I could have been greatly devastated by a negative decision, and yet I decided to act in accordance with hope itself. I was not disappointed that day.

Since then I’ve been completely charmed by the fact of hope itself. So when the NCLR called to offer Leanne and me an interview spot this week on All Things Considered with Melissa Block, we cleared our schedules. We spoke hopefully, soulfully, and as if we were talking with friends — who just happened to span the nation.

I’ve been thinking a lot these days about the Harvey Milk quote my friend Jim Lowder used to quote in his sermons:

The important thing is not that we can live on hope alone, but that life is not worth living without it.

Never have I appreciated that sentiment as much as I have in these days, and it strikes me that the act of living at all is the ultimate act of hope. As for marriage, we think the third time is a charm and yes we think Californians will act fairly and keep our marriage legal, but above all, we have hope, we have each other, and we have our family. These things are the most precious of all, and I’ll make as many vows as it takes to keep them that way.



six months ago tomorrow we were married in san francisco. yesterday, thanks to the california supreme court, we were unmarried. our baby girl is due to arrive in just over a week. our lawyer told us to run, not walk, down to register as domestic partners should our marriages become invalidated. we spent an excruciating and ultimately fruitless few hours today, nearly as much time as we spent getting married that valentine’s day, trying to second-class our union by registering as domestic partners. if you feel supportive, read the whole bloody sad tale below. if you do not, you’re not welcome on this page.

first, we consulted the secretary of state’s web site to learn how to become domestic partners. there’s a PDF to download at that link which needs to notarized and then you can take it to one of the regional offices to expedite your registration. sounds easy, if not unceremonious. but there’s a really funny, sad thing about that last page. yesterday, i copied the following words from that page into an email to leanne:

Checks, money orders, cash or credit cards (Visa or MasterCard) are accepted at the San Francisco regional office

today, i notice a change, with the following paragraph appearing instead (could it be that someone complained at the office today that the web site was wrong?):

Fees collected at the regional office locations may be made by check, money order or credit card (Visa or Mastercard). Cash will not be accepted at these locations.

actually, i can provide even more crucial information: apparently, you can’t file something via credit card either — you have to use a check. but i’m getting hours ahead of myself.

we left home around 11a with our form and set out to 601 van ness, where according to my research the UPS store, only two blocks from the state building, has a notary. i briefly deliberated with leanne about taking muni, since i’m 39 weeks pregnant, and i forgot to bring a bottle of water. but it was a nice day for a walk… and you can always buy water. we walked by city hall and both of us remembered waiting in line for five hours six months ago, which we were happy to do on that special day. we got to the UPS store around 11:30-ish. apparently, we had just missed the notary though, and they wouldn’t be back for another 45 minutes.

i was conscious leanne still had work to do today and i was already a little tired and disappointed, but we managed to find a workaround by calling the secretary of state and asking for the next closest notary. we simply had to go to room 168 back in city hall for notary services, the person told us.

we didn’t remember until we got there that room 168 was the room in which we started our official marriage procedure six months ago. we weren’t prepared for how emotional we felt when we saw men and women dressed up in tuxedos and bridal gowns on their wedding day. we also struck out with the notarization: the don’t have a notary at room 168 in city hall anymore. write that down.

by now i was a little more exhausted, and starting to withdraw. but we only had to go across the street to the courthouse, floor 2, to get our form notarized! so the end was approaching…

it was noon by the time we got up to floor two: the notary services at the courthouse close at 11:30, until 2p.

i felt thirsty and dizzy and we both wanted to cry. we decided to call the UPS store to find out if their notary had returned. in a half hour, we were told. so we walked back to 601 van ness and got me some water (actually, i forgot to get water i was so tired by then) and whiled away a half hour at opera plaza and in a clean well lighted place for books. i was tired of standing and walking, but i could perch on a bench over the cookbooks…

by one pm it was more than a half hour later, so we went back to the UPS store. no notary: well, he’s off at immigration or something — but he should be back by two! note to selves: shouldn’t they have told us that before? i was trying not to get discouraged but it was too late. we were trying to downgrade our relationship and our family, and even at that, all the doors were closing on us this friday the 13th.

leanne called elizabeth who searched the web for the next closest notary. up on post street, a half mile away. i was tripping over my feet by now, so we opted for muni up the street. as joyous as muni always is. crowded and dangerous for the balance-impaired. but within another half hour or so we were ultimately successful and happy that we surreptitiously found a gay notary waiting for us in his office, happy to help. we felt a little better… i decided that, with a doughnut, i could walk back down to the state building where we would ultimately get the registration done at last.

in the state building, there are two sets of elevators separated by the lobby. one goes up to the first half of the floors, and one goes up to the second half. we got in the wrong one at first — then got in the right one for the 14th floor. with my bladder the size of a pea, of course i had to pee. by the time we got to the 14th floor, we looked for the restroom but a woman told us the public restrooms were on the second floor – we’d have to go back all the way on the second elevator and up the first one – and i was so tired that i protested and said ‘at 9 months pregnant and paying for this building with my CA taxes, i should be able to use your restrooms on this floor’ — she seemed to imply this was a real hassle at the same time some guy walked up who seemed more offering to easily unlock a restroom for me — but i was already down the hall ready to get the whole bloody thing over with.

kevin shelley’s secretary of state office waiting room is a stinky, unceremonious, crowded, plain waiting room. not a great place for a happy downgrading of the union of a relationship. there were five people in line ahead of us standing and sitting in stale air doing various corporate things at the window (i think the title of the door has to do with corporations – a fine place to register a relationship, right?). we managed to commandeer a couch and i attempted to breathe and subvert my bladder for the next half hour or so while the line virtually stood still.

when the line started to move again, i heard someone be told that cash was not accepted. having researched the web site in advance, we had purposely left our checkbooks at home, but we also had credit cards. i launched up past the waiting line to the window to verify what i had just heard: indeed, no cash taken, but credit cards are ok — ok, i thought. we are safe. the woman tried to call me back, but i couldn’t hoist me and the girl and the bladder back up out of the couch again. leanne went for the final, tragic news. if you are FILING something, you have to have a check – credit cards aren’t accepted either.

we were tired. we had spent over three hours running around when all i wanted to be doing was lying on my left side. we were turned away from three different notaries, four different times, and persevered, yet at the last possible mile we couldn’t make it after all. this was too much to bear in the end, given that what we were trying to do was officially downgrade our relationship and any legal rights just before our baby’s born. i guess we’ll have to try again on monday.