CALIFORNIA MARRIAGE EQUALITY!!!!
“An individual’s sexual orientation – like a person’s race or gender- does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights.”
California Supreme Court, May 15, 2008
What a great day May 15 was as California joined Massachusetts as the 2nd Marriage Equality State! To quote the great (mostly) anti-racist Broadway musical South Pacific- and to interject a prickly moment of problematic gay minstrelsy – I guess I am just a “cock-eyed optimist”. Okay, we are catching me on a good day right now. The California Supreme Court just declared that denying gay people access to civil marriage is unconstitutional. “ An individual’s sexual orientation – like a person’s race or gender- does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights.” No high court in the US has ever used such sweeping inclusive language around gay civil rights. The California Supreme Court was the very first in 1948 to overturn the laws banning interracial heterosexual marriage in the great Perez v. Sharp decision - it would take the US almost twenty years to catch up- so what happens here is a game-changer. For the past ten years I have put the majority of my creative efforts as a performer and writer exploring marriage and immigration equality and working toward the centuries-long fight against the racism, sexism and homophobia of so-called “traditional” marriage that separated races, supported slavery, suppressed women, and erased gay folks.Sadly - since this decision is only state marriage rights and NO Federal rights like immigration- this wonderful California decision doesn't help my Australian partner Alistair and I in our immigration battle to remain in the US. As Gilbert and Sullivan would say "modified rapture". But how can I not feel hopeful when the Supreme Court of my state bats such a home run?
And all of us, EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US, have a role to play now because unlike Massachusetts there is no residency requirement for a marriage license in California. Thousands and thousands of Lesbian and Gay couples from every state in the US will have a California wedding - - thus pulling at least one state out of the Bush recession! -- and will be coming back to Ohio and Idaho and North Carolina and New York and demand the humanity and dignity of our lives and loves to be respected. This is a chance for cultural and educational engagement and transformation to kick into high gear! Talk about a rich creative teaching & learning moment!
Now I can look out my window from my computer and see the right wing, anti-immigrant, gay–hating buzzards assembling over California for a feast as they try to pass a California ballot initiative to overturn the decision, but I need to allow myself a moment of hope for my state, my country, my life. I went to Macy elementary school in La Habra, CA and I was frequently a flag-monitor, a role reserved for the queer boys and most prissy of Boy Scouts. Before we ran them up the pole, I would hold the US and California flags - both of which have been frequent props in my work- and sensed as a little gay boy that they weren’t really my flags, especially the one with the stars and red and white stripes. But I held out a particular hope for the flag with the friendly Smoky the Bear on it with the problematic co-opted Mexican colors, those colors and that land stolen in just one of many unjust American wars with Mexico. In a fantasy sequence in my show MY QUEER BODY that hopeful California Republic tri-lingual bear (fluent in Spanish, English and Bear) even leads me to safety during a dark moment of getting bashed by cops at an ACT UP rally when CAlifornia Governor Wilson had vetoed the California State gay rights bill.
Last week as I waved my California flag on the streets of Los Angeles at the rally after the marriage equality decision, a flag that is a prop from my shows as will as a symbol of my social self, how could I deny myself a brief strong moment of deep hope that this country does not have to be the way it is. We do not have to fear the other, freeze our hearts with Homeland Security ICE, bomb every other country, kick out Alistair and I or any other queer bi-national couple. In an integrated moment of art and social self, I felt like maybe someday I will at last be treated as a citizen of this country. I breathe in that hope. I eat it for breakfast. I spread it in my performances. Now it is time to get back to work hitch up my saddle bags and hit the road for Illinois and Missouri and Massachusetts and Texas and dozens of other states! Not to mention California gigs at gigs at Cal State Chico! Los Angeles! Cal State San Marcos! San Francisco! There is a California ballot initiative to fight before November!
warm regards, Tim Miller
PS Here's Alistair and I - well, the backs of our heads! - at the rally May 15 in Los Angeles.