THE BLOG

The Power of Learned Optimism

07/20/2014 08:58 pm ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016

My wife, Elenor, and I are among the plaintiffs in one of Utah's two marriage equality lawsuits ping-ponging its way up the judicial system. Our case, Evans vs. Utah, which is led by the ACLU of Utah, is seeking the State's recognition of the roughly 1,300 couples who married this last winter when Utah Supreme Court Judge Robert Shelby ruled Utah's marriage ban unconstitutional in the Kitchen v. Herbert case.

Ah, our 17 days of legally-protected bliss.

And while the Utah Supreme Court and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals have ruled in our favor, the number of stays imposed at this point feels somewhat akin, I'd imagine, to a dog waiting to get a treat from its owner. (Stay. Staaaaaaaay.)

It goes without saying that waiting is the worst. Especially when it's for something so important.

Yet, I have an overwhelming sense of calm and optimism about the changing landscape for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans* people in America. Even marriage equality in good ol' Utah.

The press, who oftentimes reach out for our reactions before Elenor and I even have a chance to connect after hearing of the proceedings in our case, seem surprised by our unwavering optimism as the recognition of our marriage continues to be delayed.

But I guess that's just it; we see it as a delay - a delay of the inevitable. Because, really, we have everything in our favor right now.

First, we have enough people (although a dwindling minority) like Attorney General Reyes and Governor Herbert who are willing to resist this change, thereby fueling our cases to propel through the courts. It is because of them that we have seen 27 consecutive rulings (stays aside) that favor marriage equality and the equal protection of same-sex couples. I wouldn't go as far as to say we owe them a debt of gratitude, but it's worth noting their role in our movement.

Second, change is the American way. Our country was founded on the idea that our collective ability to coexist will become more refined over time, and accordingly, our laws must thoughtfully allow the flexibility to support our burgeoning enlightenment. When the courts have the chance to examine our cases and strip away the ill-conceived and misinformed rhetoric about the impacts of marriage equality on children, states' sovereignty or "traditional" marriage, the only notion left standing will be that we all have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - and that that comes second to nothing else. History is on our side.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we are out and proud. We have experienced sometimes excruciating rites of passage that have tested our belief in and love of ourselves. We have faced personal doubt, social exclusion and even fear for our safety. We have mourned the loss of those for whom the pain was unbearable.

And through that, we have learned to see the beauty in our humanity, and have embraced the extraordinary power of our pride. We have learned optimism in the face of prejudice and disappointment, and nothing can take that away. Nothing.

So although we want and need these protections immediately, when reporters ask how we remain confident and patient through this process our reply is that we know nothing else.

Optimism is how we survive.