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Martin Berusch

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In Between Pride and Independence

Posted: 07/11/2012 4:03 pm

It was a fleeting moment, but as I turned around in my seat to drink in the sounds of cheers and applause in the room, I caught a glimpse of him, tears streaming down his face. His was the face where joy and pride had momentarily betrayed his composure. This is how I recall Bob's father's face on the day that his son renewed his wedding vows. The lump in my own throat reminded me how my own dead father, living as he often does in my dreams, tells me how proud he is of me, how he loves me, with tears pouring down his cheeks. "Yes, my son, I love you with all my heart, and I am so proud of you that I could just burst with joy," says Dad.

And so it was last week when, smack in between Pride Weekend and Independence Day, my partner and I were sitting amidst a sea of love and support, attending a most outstanding wedding celebration of two very good friends and amazing human beings -- not to mention fabulous gays in every comprehensible meaning of the phrase. I say this not only because both Walter Batt and his husband Bob Koherr are highly successful members of society and pillars of our community but because they represent what is right with the world. They are the consummate role models, the kind of people whom I look up to. Here are two men who are as selflessly devoted to family, friends, and community as they are committed to love and to one another.

It so happens that the Batt-Koherrs were officially married in 2008, during that brief period of time when same-gender marriage was legalized in California. We all know what happened next: Proposition 8 and the campaign to disavow these unions temporarily derailed and thwarted the dreams of so many of us. In true class and style, despite being legally married -- and quite ecstatically so -- Bob and Walt decided they would not celebrate their nuptials. This was their moment of silence and quiet civil protest. Their line of thinking was, and is, "How could we celebrate our marriage when other same-gender couples were no longer being allowed to do so, as well?" It is for that reason that it was not until the recent repeal of Prop 8 -- where the denial of gay marriages was deemed unconstitutional -- that our dear friends considered it apropos to finally bring friends and family together and join them in a joyous celebration of the union of their love and lives together.

So it was with this serendipitous change of circumstances that a sea of family, friends, and notable guests came together, all paying homage to our friends on their special occasion: the renewal of their marriage vows. Among the guests was Jason Alexander. Although so many were in attendance, speaking in concert about how these two extraordinary people merited every recognition of the evening and were to be acknowledged for their unwavering commitment to each other over the past 10 years, it was Jason who most eloquently encapsulated the celebration for me.

Jason poignantly spoke of how these two men had quite purposely come together and made a lifelong commitment to honor one another just by simply following the love in their hearts. But I sense that he sought to have us extrapolate a bit more from his speech. I, for one, saw this celebration as an opportunity for this couple to subtly pave the way for hundreds if not tens of thousands of others like us. In their quiet manner, they are helping us grasp that we are a stone's throw away from realizing our own dreams. It is through such acts that we are, quite possibly, breathtakingly close to realizing our full potential as equal citizens, or, more broadly, as fully realized human beings.

Jason went on to speak very candidly of how he and his wife had the privilege of entering into this binding contract of marriage, no questions asked. They lucked out having found one another and joining kindred spirits in an expression of unbridled love at a very tender age. To see him speak so lovingly of his spouse is nothing short of inspiring and heartwarming. As someone who has found my true love, I found that Jason's declaration of love not only reduced me to a puddle of tears but also reaffirmed what I felt for my own partner, as he gave voice and body to how I felt. Jason went on to say some powerful stuff. He pointed out that the union of two consenting adults who truly are devoted to one another is a sacred thing, something that should not require a second glance, much less a second thought. He said something to the effect that, someday, this kind of a union will be commonplace, more the rule than the exception, if you will.

The rest of the evening came and went in cinematic fashion, my mind ablaze in wonderment. There was an abundance of exquisite food, drink, and conversation, and a star-quality lineup of singers and dancers; the whole event was reminiscent of a 1940s supper club. Mike and I were able to record snippets of videos on our phones; in one video, amid the cacophony in the background, you can hear Mike declare, "We're next!" clearly demonstrative of the impact the moment had on him, and probably everybody else in that room.

And so, that's what this message is about: It's about affording us all the opportunity to string together the summation of so many moments that we must allow ourselves to have, to hold, and to experience -- and do so in the sanctity of marriage, if we so choose. It's also about allowing even the staunchest and most composed of us to let go for a moment and reflect without fear, judgment, reprisal, and recrimination, and to experience what happiness really means. Live and let live, as the adage goes. Or level the playing field. It is about giving people like Mike and me and so many others the opportunity to live a happy, unencumbered, and purposeful life. It's about giving our loved ones the platform to stand up in a darkened crowd with friends and strangers alike, tears streaming down their faces, telling us with true abandon: "I love you. I'm so proud of you. I'm so full of joy for you that I could burst."

 

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