Produced with Tina Chong
When Don Kreindler and Ernie Carswell get married on August 1 in their Los Angeles home, Carswell's father -- a Baptist Minister from South Carolina -- just might show up.
"He hasn't said yes, but more importantly, he hasn't said no," said Carswell. "He said he was going to check his calendar, so for him, that's not a no."
Carswell said he left South Carolina to be comfortable with his own identity, away from his father with whom he shares a name. As Carswell and his partner sat, waiting to receive their marriage license at the Beverly Hills courthouse yesterday, he said that the Bible Belt wasn't always a place of acceptance for people with his lifestyle. "They believe it's against their religious beliefs, and that's even more reason for me to make this governmental stand," Carswell said. "Because at least there's a part of me as a human being which is the state-supported person that I am ... that can be approved today."
The couple obtained their marriage license on the first legal day to do so, June 17 -- also Carswell's birthday. Their wedding in August will coincide with their 25th anniversary.
For Carswell, getting married is the first step towards being politically active around the issue of gay rights. "We're not the marching type, but we are supportive," he said. Carswell referred to the Stonewall Riots of the 1960s in New York City, when LGBT and police forces collided for several days and sparked a worldwide gay rights movement. Though they were too young then to have participated in Stonewall, Carswell recognizes the importance of this occasion in California.
"This is our Stonewall -- our statement now -- because even if it is voted down, if [our marriage] becomes not legal as of November, we were here now, we made our statement, and for these months, we are legal. And that's a very forward step I think in our society and in everyone's advancement for the cause," he said.
A state ballot measure, which seeks to overturn the recent state Supreme Court decision to allow same-sex marriage, will be voted on in the November elections.
Listen to Don Kreindler and Ernie Carswell at the courthouse:
When asked if he thought his home state of South Carolina would make the same strides, Carswell laughed, "I won't be alive when that happens, because I am too old to wait on that." If South Carolina faced the same ballot initiatives as California, Carswell said he believes it would galvanize the conservative, religious right to stop same-sex marriages, with the added effect of boosting votes for John McCain.
As for Carswell's father, Kreindler sees a dichotomy between the man who enjoys visiting his son and partner in California and the man whose religion and profession prohibit him from endorsing such a union. "It wasn't until year 15 that he stopped saying, 'Can't you just be friends?'" said Kreindler. "I mean, he's come a long way... it's very different for him. It's a different world."