Nora Wynne: Marriage And Justice For All

Friday, June 14, 2013

Note: Nora and Lara’s daughters, Zea and Luna, wrote a letter to President Obama in support of same-sex marriage, and soon found themselves in his company at the White House. Click links for details. –Ed.

I’ve been married a few times. It’s not what you think. Each marriage has been to the same woman. Only one time has our marriage been deemed legal, and even then, only barely. It is June, so I am waiting for the Supreme Court’s decision, in both the Prop 8 case and the DOMA case. While I wait, I have been reflecting on all of my marriages. I have been considering many of the arguments against gay marriage. So far, since I have been married, depending on how you count, almost 14 years later, I can’t see any negative impact on my community caused by my marriage.

The first time we publicly declared our love and commitment to one another was August, 1999. My partner Lara and I had a ceremony under a chupa in the redwoods, joined by loving family and friends in Jacoby Creek. We pledged to love each other, to care for each other in hard times and to celebrate good times. California was on the verge of passing Prop 22 that defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman. We asked our families and friends to make a commitment to us too. We asked them to stand with us in the fight for marriage equality. They all shouted “I Do!”

Nora and Lara's daughters' letter to President Obama.

Nora and Lara’s daughters’ letter to President Obama.

The second time we wed was in San Francisco in February, 2004. Lara had just birthed our twin daughters just two weeks before. One of them was still in the hospital with lots of medical complications, so we were living in the city. While we hovered over our tiny daughter in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Mayor Gavin Newsom gave the mandate to the city clerks in to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. Despite our challenging situation, we knew it was a historic moment, and we wanted to be a part of history. A friend rode his bike to City Hall and got us a number. The next day, Lara and I were wed in the San Francisco City Hall, with one of our twins in our arms, and a few friends beside us. We ate wedding cake on the sidewalk, across the street from protestors, surrounded by a jubilant crowd of people from around the country. A few months later the state annulled our marriage.

From June to November of 2008, California granted same-sex marriage licenses. We went to the Humboldt County Courthouse with a group of friends and our four-year-old daughters and asked for a marriage license. They granted us a license; we signed the dotted line, and paid the fee. I kissed the bride and so did she. We went home and had cake with two little plastic brides on top. But, in November, the voters of California approved Proposition 8 to take away the rights of gays and lesbians to marry. Oddly, those of us who got married before that vote, get to stay married. Other couples, just like us, don’t get to have the same privilege as the rest of married people. Isn’t that an outrageous idea?

In 2009, our kids were five when the California Supreme Court decided to uphold Prop 8, but didn’t overturn our marriage. Our kids were 6, when the ban was deemed unconstitutional by federal judge, Vaughn Walker.

Now, in 2013, our kids are nine years old. They are full of beautiful questions and a developing sense of justice. We wait for the Supreme Court to deliver their decision on our marriage. We do our best to explain to our daughters, what it all means.

It is tough to explain why people would not want us to be married. I try to explain that people who oppose gay marriage think our “alternative” family poses some sort of threat to our community by being married. My kids scratch their heads. The truth is that we feel so dreadfully normal. We hurry in the mornings to get out to school and work on time, we do homework after school, hustle to make dinner, hear about each others’ day, get jammies on and snuggle in to read our nighttime story. In between, the kids complain about their lunches, the moms nag about dirty clothes on the floor and the recycling that hasn’t been taken out. Friends drop by to help with the biking lessons, and the neighbors note how tall the kids are getting.

Social change takes time. I know that people’s opinions have changed. I know that justice-minded people want the court to make the only fair choice. After a long time, here we are on the precipice of a Supreme Court decision. I wait, wonder and hope. I know that my kids will have questions about what it all means, when the decision comes. I hope I get to tell them, that the court decided that people like us get to be married, and that families like ours get to participate fully in our democratic institutions. I hope that the decision falls on the side of justice for all.

Nora Wynne