My partner Don and I, along with our friends John and Efren, were so energized and invested in Barack Obama's campaign for the Presidency that even before his election, we arranged hotel and travel to be in Washington D.C. for his inauguration. We had campaigned in our hometown of Los Angeles for him and were elated with his victory. We four were determined to be a part of the historical moment when the first African-American -- and the first person to rouse America's hope in human possibility since Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy -- became President.
Arriving in the nation's capital the weekend prior to Inauguration Day, it became immediately apparent that this was a pilgrimage-cum-block party. It looked like something out of an old "United Colors of Benetton" ad. There we all were: women and men; young and old; Latino, Asian, and Native American; black and white, gay and straight, disabled and not.
We came from little places and big places; from near and far, yet we all brought with us euphoria, camaraderie, and a kindness that we shared despite the cold and long lines. In a word, it was brotherhood.
No matter whom we met, on the National Mall, in museum or Metro lines, every one was flying above the clouds because of our new president and the new promise and possibility for our country. But those who soared the highest of us all were African-Americans. As a gay person, it gave me such hope. Our struggle is not comparable to that of African-Americans. But gays have always been moved by the power of their dream and the dedication to their struggle to become fully part of the true American dream. Don and I want nothing less than that, too. And there are millions more just like us.
On Inauguration day the sun was vibrant; the air crisp and cold with a startling, yet pleasant sting of vitality when you inhaled. The only thing larger in size than the crowd was its spirit. Thousands upon thousands of hope-filled people were everywhere we looked, literally connecting the monuments with a sea of humanity. Outfitted in everything from their Sunday best and other finery to layered in blankets, American flags and Obama caps, we numbered nearly two million people according to estimates.
We came here, we Americans of every race and region and station, because we believe in what this country can be and because we want to help us get there, to paraphrase Obama's remarks at the Lincoln Memorial.
Our place of witness for the Inauguration was the House Foreign Affairs Hearing Room in the Russell Congressional Office building, as we were unable to obtain tickets to the swearing-in ceremony. In an august, wood paneled hall, with huge portraits of former congressional committee chairmen and large flat-screen TVs, we joined throngs of others. We were no less enthusiastic and no less bonded than our brethren outside on Capitol Hill and down the Mall, just a great deal warmer.
And when finally that moment came, when Obama stepped out onto the platform and the ceremony began, I felt goose bumps. More than just a singular sensation of goose bumps but a collective, simultaneous national sensation of goose bumps from all those in the Committee Room, in front of the Capitol, everywhere!
"The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history ..." said President Obama. To carry-on the "... the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness."
Throughout the inaugural ceremony, like everyone else we cheered, we wept and we prayed. And yet, through the range of all those emotions, it was that involuntary tingle of those collective goose bumps that stayed with me.
Now, as a gay men, the greatest Inaugural challenge for us was President Obama's choice of Rick Warren to give the Invocation. Warren is a mega-church pastor in Southern California and is a man who opposed the marriage of same-sex people equating it to pedophilia and incest. Coming from Los Angeles, we know about Warren.
You see John, Efren, Don and I also campaigned for No on Prop 8, the hateful and hurtful California state proposition that overturned the State Supreme Court's ruling that gave Don and me the right to marry - as we had done on June 29. Political strategists and pundits say that we lost because of the likes of Rick Warren, the Mormon Church and others who applied the worst Karl Rove-type tactics to conduct a disgusting and divisive, fear-based campaign.
As I listened to Warren give the Invocation, I found it hard to believe that the he could respond to the brotherhood of Obama and yet deny me my marriage to Don.
And, as I listened to our new president speak so powerfully and eloquently that it was time to carry-on "the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness," my mind flashed to Rick Warren.
I thought, does Reverend Warren believe this? Will he be changed by what is happening here today? Will he practice what Obama preaches? Will he apply what our President says to gays and lesbians who want to marry?
Well, I don't know what Rick Warren will do to answer President Obama's call, but I will take my lead from the President. I will extend my hand to Rick Warren if he will unclenched his fist. I will encourage my homosexual brethren and our heterosexual friends and supporters to do the same. We will reach out to build and create a better understanding with those who don't understand or misunderstand us. We will go to churches, temples, mosques and town halls to begin a dialog in hopes that they will come to know that we are not much different from them. Our love, our devotion, our desires for our children's future and for the future of the communities and the world in which we live and contribute, is little different from theirs.
We know the power of the "patchwork heritage" of which Obama spoke that vibrant, crisp Inaugural afternoon. And John, Efren, Don and I will answer the President's call to service, to be a part of something greater than ourselves, because we believe in what this country can be and because we want to help us get there.
We are ready to help make American anew. Not just anew in causes for gay people, but anew in causes for all people.
In these critical days following the Inaugural ceremony, I still feel those incredible goose bumps. I hope Rick Warren does, too.
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