“Can I vote on your marriage?”

“Can I vote on your marriage?”
“Straight but not narrow”
“Give love a chance”
“Please let my Dads stay married”
“Marriage is defined by commitment, not genitalia”

These were a few of the signs carried by almost 2,000 people who marched yesterday in Santa Rosa, CA, part of an effort around the country to protest California’s passage of Proposition 8 banning gay marriage. Our own Sonoma County voted 66% against the proposition, but the state as a whole passed it.

Why was I there? I am committed to the belief that we should all be equal under the law — which seems so obvious that I am horrified, mystified, and embarrassed that Prop. 8 passed.

Beyond that, I had the profound and exhilarating experience of marrying— spiritually and legally — artist Robert Rice, the great love of my life. I know the depth, the joy, the emotional power of making that commitment.

Why deny the legal right to that same experience to committed couples who happen to be hardwired to love someone with the same genital configuration instead of the opposite?

I just don’t get it!

We marched yesterday, a rainbow of ages, colors, sexual orientations, united by one firm belief: equality under the law. Some walked nimbly, others were assisted by canes or crutches. Some pushed strollers, led dogs (often with their own signs or stickers), played instruments, or held hands. Many of the protesters were elders, I was happy to see, both gay and straight.

An amusing distraction was a man who carried a Bible and a sign that proclaimed, “God hates shrimp! (Leviticus)” In case you don’t know, the same book of the Old Testament that some people use to “prove” that God hates “sodomites” also includes this: “Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you.” In case you want to pursue this, visit the website devoted to this. (In case that makes you nervous, it’s a parody.)

I interviewed several elders about why they were there:

Liz Basile will be 81 next month. She left the Catholic church because of its positions on priest celibacy, abortion, and birth control. “I voted no on 8 because it’s just not fair,” she told me. “I’ve had two divorces – what did I do about the sanctity of marriage?”

Whitey Sterman, age 79, has two gay sons. “But I’d be here even if they weren’t gay,” he said.

“I think I’ll die still perplexed about why anyone cares what I do with my genitals,” Harley, a 68-year-old artist told me. Harley (who was a dear friend of Robert) is in a committed relationship with Hamlet Mateo, also an artist. “If I had waited for approval to be myself, I could never have lived my life.”

At a small group discussion afterwards, a grey-haired woman described the joy of being able to marry her partner of 15 years last October. Though she is dismayed that her marriage is no longer legally valid, she told us, “My marriage didn’t start last October, and it didn’t end on election day,”

I welcome comments on this and all my blog posts. If you’d like to comment but don’t know how, click here. It’s easy, really! If you have a website or a book related to the subject of this blog that you think we’d benefit from knowing about, feel free to include name and link. (No feeble excuses for blatent advertising, though, and no links to drugs or sites that I might consider questionable. If in doubt, ask me.)

Many thanks to Emily Evans for taking the photo above.

For more about this march, view a gallery of 17 photos by the Santa Rosa Press Democrat’s Kent Porter and read the Santa Rosa Press Democrat’s coverage of the march.


  1. Jaliya on November 29, 2008 at 7:52 am

    I just can’t fathom the rabid attitude of some folks about whom and how humans can love.

    I recall talking with a woman I’ve known for decades; she came out to me when she was about 22. She told me that she *knew* she was “different” at the age of four … She realized what the difference was instantly when she first read about homosexuality. I remember her words about this epiphany: “I was saturated with certainty.”

    Her first love has been her only love — They’ve been together for 22 years now. They met; they clicked; they bonded; that was it. LOVE.

    What else could possibly matter?!

  2. paula on November 17, 2008 at 11:00 pm

    The people in these “churches” who call themselves “Christians” should all read Carol’s comment.

    Wow, I had some inkling about the things that used to be done to contrary women, but this is the real story, a real experience. Brought out into the open, about time.

    Thanks, Carol, for sharing. Blessings to you.


  3. paula on November 17, 2008 at 10:50 pm

    The protests in support of gay marriage and full equality under the law for gays and lesbians are so wonderful and heartening! democracy lives! I’m so grateful that we have all come this far that so many people of all stripes are standing up for liberty and justice.

    We’ll probably allow gay marriage here in Alabama when donkeys fly, but many of us are cheering you on! I’m part of a community within our city that includes humans of all ages, sexual orientations, genders, ethnic backgrounds . . . what have I left out? We welcome a diversity of points of view, agreeing to disagree and being together anyway. I go to a church where gays and lesbians, including couples, are embraced the same as everyone is, without it being a big deal. So maybe one day donkeys will sprout wings.

  4. Carol on November 17, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    I am almost 70 years old. I came out when I was 12 in 1950. It was the McCarthy Era and he was going after communists for the most part, but anyone else who was different.

    At 12 I wasn’t sure of WHAT I was, but I knew what I felt and which sex those feelings flowed toward. At 14 I was “arrested” by the Fort Wayne, Indiana police department on suspicion of being a homosexual.

    They scared me to death because I was still sorting out my sexuality and I could talk to no one about this incident. Not my family and certainly there were no support groups around back then.

    That anger was with me for a long time and mostly aimed at me; big depressions, suicidal, shame, you name it.

    After years and years of hiding, I finally came out publicly at the age of 40 here in Sonoma County. All of my unspoken rage and anger began to set me free.

    I am not concerned about being able to marry, but I am deeply disappointed that my history and others who experienced even worse things like shock treatment, being put in mental institutions, driven from their homes and their families, etc., etc, continues to be brought forward by ignorance and fear that gave up Prop 8.

    Each time we attempt to obtain our Constitution rights,some religious people tell us it is because we make a choice to be gay, like we wake up one day and say, “Oh I think I’ll be gay!” Who in the hell would want to be battered and beaten down every time they try to stand up as who they are by choosing to be gay?

    I was born to be who I am, sexuality and all the other parts of me. Maybe the real fear is that the gays who are “married” will show them how good we are at it. After all, heterosexual marriage hasn’t been the most successful unions on the planet.

    Give us a chance; educate yourself, stopping hurting and denying others their civil rights.

    Sometimes I wonder how anyone would want a leader of a church to tell them how to run their own lives; it puzzles me greatly. It makes me wonder how many people are actually behind our gaining our rights, but are afraid to stand up for themselves.

    Well, I will stand up for myself and will stand with my gay brothers and sisters every time until we get what we deserve; ALL our rights NOW.


  5. Anonymous on November 17, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    Another word of gratitude for participating in the rally and adding your magic vibes and your heart. Another NO against Prop. 8 and its point of view will add strength to the very sure and secure future of equality in marriage, relationships, sexual preferences.

  6. Sue Katz on November 17, 2008 at 2:10 am

    I was amazed at the explosion of spontaneous demonstrations following the vote to take rights away from California citizens. What a privilege to have your first-hand account and photos. I just adore your title, too. When people feel righteous anger they sure do come up with some great protest slogans.
    Thanks, Joan,
    Sue Katz, author
    Thanks But No Thanks: The Voter’s Guide to Sarah Palin
    Blog-Consenting Adult http://www.suekatz.com

  7. Tina B. Tessina, PhD "Dr. Romance on November 16, 2008 at 11:54 pm

    Joan, I’m so glad you posted this. I rejoiced this year as same-sex couple after same-sex couple of my friends married. I, too, have a wonderful marriage to Richard, for 26 years and counting, and I believe in love for everyone. Make love, not war or law. Gender identification is no reason for discrimination. The Jesus I have read would be horrified at what people do in His name.

    We’re talking all things romance on the Dr. Romance blog.

  8. Mateo on November 16, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    Thank you so much for your courageous endorsement of equality for all! I have always been open to talking with people with opposing views about homosexuality. But Prop 8, which is ultimately a form of institutionalized discrimination, makes that dialogue harder. It has been such a painful and terrifying setback. These last few days, I am looking for doses of hope wherever they turn up. Thank you for marching and blogging and taking on this important issue.

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