You know how they always say that every cloud has a silver lining? Well, yesterday, I believe I witnessed that very thing.
Before I had children I was an x-ray tech, or in more modern terms, a radiologic technologist, a term that always bugged me because people had no inkling what I meant. But, I digress. I took x-rays of every body part imaginable, and then too, in the early days of my career, there were no other imaging modalities, aside from nuclear medicine. Ultrasound was the first to be put into use, followed by CAT scans and MRI. So, pretty much every hospitalized patient had some type of x-ray. I loved every minute of it, aside from going to surgery--that part I never liked, probably because I had less control on how the x-rays would turn out!
Then, I had my first born son, Matthew. I loved that baby like you cannot imagine. Any parent of multiple children will tell you that they may not love any of them more than the other, yet, there is still just something about the child you were trained on. No one really knows what they are doing when they have a child, thus you do your best, hoping it will all work out. Then along came Bill, who is four minutes older than David, followed by our little surprise baby, Jonathan; each of whom benefited in some way from our learning experiences with Matthew.
We were just sailing along in our lives, doing the best we could to raise a house full of boys. Then, one Sunday afternoon, while Matt was living in London, on a student visa (if you will), twenty years old at the time, or so I think, he called from the phone booth at the hostel where he was living. Talking to Bruce first, he told his Dad that he was seeing a man. Bruce was sweet and kind in his response, whereas, when I got the phone, the first thing I said to Matt was, " I am scared." And do you know why I was scared? Because of those earlier paragraphs you just read. At the time I was working a 16 hour shift every Saturday at the only hospital in town taking in AIDS patients. And, of course, we all remember that AIDS, although contracted by all sorts of folks, primarily, or so it seemed, homosexuals were carrying the brunt of it. Dying every single day! In my role as the only x-ray tech on duty, I would be constantly called upon to push the portable x-ray machine to an AIDS patient's bedside to perform a chest x-ray, sometimes hours before their death. Furthermore, because I only worked the one day a week, if the patients did linger, I could visibly see their decline, probably more than most because of the weeks difference. I can't tell you the tears I shed watching death happen before my eyes. Reassuring me he said, "Mom, I've done nothing to make you afraid." I did my best to rest in his assurances.
So, it was with this background that I learned my son was gay. I'm not going to lie--I cried for days on end. And it wasn't just the fear of AIDS that made me cry, it was the thought that people would hate my beloved son because he was attracted to men rather than women. Why this happens is one of life's mysteries.
This is my thesis--that the AIDS epidemic brought homosexuality into the national conversation in a new way. Civil rights for everyone, regardless of their sexual preference, became the rallying cry. Mostly, before that time it was spoken of in private, but not so much in public. Young men and woman were afraid to tell their parents for fear of being rejected. Certainly no one could have predicted then what I witnessed both in March, and yesterday on the steps of our own City Hall.
LOVE between two women, or two men, celebrated in public! A tidal wave if you will. Instead of tears of sadness, I was shedding tears of joy. I do have friends who are uncomfortable with the notion of marriage between same sex partners, and I respect their right to that opinion, but in my experience, life is just plain too short to deny anyone their civil rights. As I see it, the only people who should have an opinion at all are those folks affected by discriminatory laws.
I can hardly imagine what it was like for our friends, Jim, and Ken, who have been together for 41 years, and made their union legal just yesterday! As I was walking to the event I fell into step with a young man heading the same way to witness some friends being married. When I told him about our friends, he was astonished, saying he hardly knew any heterosexual couples together that long! I told him he was talking to one such person. :)
Without further preaching or hypothesizing (!), let me show you the joyous occasion with a little explanation about the photographs.
If you look closely you will see one of the protestors, of which there were only a few. I positioned myself in between the third tripod, and the man with his back to us. Although I did not notice at the time I took this photo, my friend, Dave, part of a gay couple, both named Dave (!), is second from the right. The media was out in full force to witness the historic day.
9:00 sharp, the doors to City Hall opened, and the 45+ couples made their way down the steps amongst the cheering crowd. Imagine the stories involved....
I so wish I could remember this woman's name; she spoke first because she is the civil rights attorney most involved in making yesterday happen. She called yesterday's event, the crowning achievement of her career!
Patty Sheehan, the first openly gay City Commissioner, getting ready to speak:
Fittingly, she read a portion of 1 Corinthians 13. Speaking with her later, she told me Scripture is for all of us, and I could not agree more. I am predicting in this very space that she could very well be our next Mayor! Or, so I hope because she is a dynamo!
I brought my camera, no surprise there, but I had no idea how awesome it would all work out. There were chairs on both sides of the steps filled with the couples; as luck would have it, my friends turned out to be not only on my side, but within the range of my zoom!! Not only were Jim and Ken marrying, so too was my friend Dawn and her partner of 27 years.
Neither of the couples knew that I would be documenting their special day, so it was such a lovely surprise for all of us. Jim and Ken saying their vows:
I don't know what Jim was thinking wearing that Orlando City hat! Asking them how they met, Jim sent me this email:
Ken just said, "Oh, we only met yesterday", no doubt a feeble attempt at humor. We met on my birthday actually. Back in Atlanta. I had no one that date to share it with so I was just going to head out to my favorite dance club. Driving down, I was thinking about how lonely I was and how much I wished I had someone special in my life. So, I had this conversation with my higher power....I remember saying, deep inside, "God, I don't know what I'm looking for, but you do." And that night, I met Ken (introduced by a mutual friend) and we've been together ever since. After 41 years, it is wonderful to be free to be married.
If that doesn't bring a tear to your eye, I don't know what will! Because they were the couple together the longest, the media could not get enough of them:
This couple, whose names I also cannot remember, were the major players in a lawsuit demanding civil rights.
Standing with them is the woman who made the lovely cake; her story was in our local paper, however, I cannot find a link to it. In a nutshell, she had a partner who died of cancer nine days before the birth of their baby boy. How horrible is that? In her memory, she made five cakes to distribute. Of course, J & K got one, and I convinced them to cut it, not only for some cake cutting photo ops, but to see the inside, which she told us was six layers! And so it was...
The effort it must have taken! Whoa. She, of course, did not have the opportunity to marry, but it did not stop her from making the day even more special for five lucky couples. :)
It is always a joy to witness history in the making, even more so when you know it is all for love....and civil rights!