I have seen this day

  • by Thomas E. Horn, Publisher
  • Wednesday June 26, 2013
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Lieutenant Governor (and former mayor) Gavin Newsom and<br>City Attorney Dennis Herrera savor the Prop 8 victory Wednesday at City Hall.<br>(Photo: Rick Gerharter)<br><br>
Lieutenant Governor (and former mayor) Gavin Newsom and
City Attorney Dennis Herrera savor the Prop 8 victory Wednesday at City Hall.
(Photo: Rick Gerharter)

I really never thought I'd see the day. I knew I was different as a little boy, well before puberty. When I did become an adolescent, I went to the public library to see what I could learn about "homosexuality." The nice lady said I would need to go into the stacks; to the pathology section. There was no Internet. There were no gay-straight alliances. I was certain I was the only one. Even when I got to law school at UCLA in the 1960s, I was so ashamed that anyone know what I was that I parked my car blocks away from the gay bar I had seen advertised in the adult section of the Los Angeles Times. The Vietnam War was raging, and I was prime draft age. Back then, when you went for your Selective Service physical, there was a box you could check, "homosexual tendencies," which would mean automatic disqualification from military service. I was sure it would ruin my career to "check the box," as we called it. So, instead, I did three years of military service in the Air Force National Guard. And I married a woman.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 opinion authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, ruled that the insidious Defense of Marriage act is unconstitutional as a violation of gay peoples' equal protection rights under the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution; that it served no legitimate purpose and only has the effect of disparaging and injuring same-sex couples whom states had legitimately sought to protect through their marriage laws. Justice Antonin Scalia, in dissent, called the ruling "jaw dropping." Frankly, no one's jaw dropped more than my own. I never thought I would see the day.

It wasn't that long ago that intimate relations between persons of the same sex would land you in jail. It wasn't that long ago that a mayor of San Francisco vetoed a domestic partnership ordinance when the Catholic archbishop cried that such legal recognition and protection of homosexuals from employment and housing discrimination would cause the disintegration of the moral fiber of our city. It wasn't long ago that gay people were prohibited from serving in the armed forces. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was an awkward attempt to improve the situation, but it only made things worse. And the idea that same-sex couples could marry. What a fantasy, I thought. I'll never see the day.

At the press conference at San Francisco City Hall following the announcement of the Supreme Court decisions in DOMA and Prop 8, Kate Kendell, head of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, correctly observed that San Francisco is "ground zero" in the fight for LGBT equality. And on this jaw-dropping day, let us give thanks. Let us give thanks to a young mayor, Gavin Newsom, who in 2004 said "enough!" and ordered the San Francisco city clerk to issue marriage licenses to all loving couples, a move decried by many from his own political clan. Let us give thanks to all the elected leaders of our city and state who have been solidly behind us in the struggle. Let us give thanks to a courageous city attorney, Dennis Herrera, who has been in the forefront of the fight from the beginning. As he said at City Hall Wednesday: "You gotta do what is right and be moral." Herrera acknowledged that the decision upholding the bold and courageous opinion of Federal Judge Vaughn Walker in declaring the hateful Prop 8 unconstitutional will, no doubt, lead to additional litigation. But, as he said, "We are ready. We have the motions drafted. And same-sex marriage will resume in California."

I have had a front row seat for 60-plus years to watch LGBT evolution in our society. The struggle for dignity, respect, and equality is far from over. Not everyone is impacted by these decisions. And equality is not the same as acceptance. Yet today, by decree of the highest court in our land, we all stand equal before the law, entitled to the same rights and to equal dignity. I never thought I would see the day. I was wrong. I have seen the day.