Mountain View Voice

News - July 5, 2013

A victory march for marriage equality

by Daniel DeBolt

On the evening of the Supreme Court ruling against California's gay marriage ban, over 100 people marched through downtown Mountain View to celebrate, carrying rainbow flags.

The signs said, "Marry who you love" and "I do — support marriage equality." Marchers chanted, "With liberty and justice for all" and "Yes, we can!" Supportive onlookers included some elated restaurant employees who pointed to a gay co-worker, saying, "I'm happy for him!"

At City Hall the June 26 march turned into a rally where City Council member Chris Clark was among the speakers.

Clark said he was honored to stand in front of the crowd "as Mountain View's first openly gay elected official, and proudly proclaim that DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) and Prop. 8 are dead." He later added, "Tomorrow, our fight continues. There are still 37 states where LGBT people are still second-class citizens and today's ruling did nothing to change that."

The court's decision killed the Defense of Marriage Act, which, among other things, kept the spouses of gay federal government employees from having the same benefits as straight couples, including health care and pension benefits.

NASA Ames Research Center employee Robert McCann said he and his partner were married when it was legal in California five years ago, but his requests to add his husband to his employee benefits were denied.

"I've spent the last five years fighting against the federal government because it discriminated against us in the most basic way that an employer can discriminate — it didn't pay me equally to my heterosexual colleagues down the hall," he said. "Today, it's over."

Now, if McCann were to die, his husband "will get part of my pension. He will get Social Security benefits."

When a friend of McCann's lost his wife to cancer in March, "he had to make the decisions we all have to make if we are couple," he said. "He had to decide to when to stop treatment. He had to decide when she was going to die. He did it and he did it well and he did it with her approval and her understanding and her knowledge. And when he called me today, he said that is what this is all about, because we also have the right to make those decisions for our partners. That's what it means that DOMA is gone."

A transgender woman, Gayle Humphrey, offered her story. She married her wife as a man in 1978.

"For the first 30 years of our marriage the government recognized our marriage because it was a straight relationship," she told the crowd. "One day when I stepped off the plane from Bangkok after having taken care of a physical issue I needed to have resolved, the government instantly no longer recognized our marriage. All our rights were taken away in a moment and when we went to find out why, we were told, 'It's because you are in a same sex-relationship now, you have no standing, you have no rights.'"

Organizer Ray Hixson, a lawyer, was compelled to read Justice Anthony Kennedy's passionate majority opinion in the ruling.

DOMA "humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples," Kennedy says. "The law in question makes it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives."

The rally ended with a singing of the Civil Rights anthem "We Shall Overcome."

"Today, we had some overcoming that happened right?" Hixson said.

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