The first, very emotional and anxious day of the Prop 8 trial had ended in January 2010, and I met up with another reporter in the lobby of San Francisco's Hotel Whitcomb to go out to dinner. As we approached the revolving doors, a homeless man came through them, took a look at me and, out of nowhere, said, "Never, ever get married."
It was a bit startling, and he was gone before I could ask him why. In my case, he's too late, but it was also jarring because we had spent much of the day listening to the plaintiffs testify as to how much the marital union, denied by state initiative, meant to them. Now the bizarre comment makes sense, as it's what is bound to happen in the evolution of same-sex marriage: the jokes, as in the Borscht-like humor of crazy spousal behavior, odd relatives, interfering in-laws and, inevitably, divorce.
When I got married, less than two weeks before the November 2008 election, more than a few straight male friends said, in a tone of irreverence, "What's wrong with gay marriage? If you want to be as miserable as the rest of us, fine." Nearly five years in, I've succumbed to the same schtick. Shortly after the Supreme Court decision came down on the Defense of Marriage Act, a decision with huge legal ramifications on everything from taxes to immigration, I told my spouse, Stewart, "This is going to save us $2,000." He replied, sarcastically, "That's what you are thinking about, Mr. Mooney?!" (cultural reference, circa 1960s).
Last week, after a rally in West Hollywood to celebrate the Supreme Court victories, Ted Olson, one of the lead attorneys for the Prop 8 plaintiffs, told reporters why he thought hearts and minds had changed so quickly on the issue: "I think it is because people started looking around and [seeing] who they are and what their country is, who their neighbors are, who their friends are, and they ask themselves, 'Why shouldn't they be happy, or unhappy? Why shouldn't they have the same rights and the same freedoms as I do?'"
That's why, jokes aside and the next legal steps yet to be announced, there's a serious choice that will be facing many more couples in California as they ponder whether to take the plunge. As the pent-up demand works its way through the system and the tales of bliss are no longer news, there undoubtedly will be angst at the idea of taking the plunge. It's a higher level of commitment, one that so many have fought so long and hard for. There also may be pragmatic pressure: It's not difficult to imagine the many companies that offer benefits to same-sex couples with domestic partnerships will no longer offer them if marriage is now an option.
So get ready for historic moments to give way to the humor, the surest sign that the union of husband and husband and wife and wife have become ho-hum.
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