06/10/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Pride, A Deeper Love

Note: Summer is the season of gay pride festivals across the country, from May through early November. The festivals commemorate the events at the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in New York City. Here is a summary of that rebellion from "During the last weekend of June of 1969, police and Alcoholic Beverage Control Board agents entered a gay bar -- The Stonewall Inn, on Christopher Street, in New York City. Allegedly there to look for violations of the alcohol control laws, they made the usual homophobic comments and then, after checking identification, threw the patrons out of the bar, one by one. Instead of quietly slipping away into the night, as we had done for years, hustlers, drag queens, students and other patrons held their ground and fought back. Someone uprooted a parking meter and used it to barricade the door. The agents and police were trapped inside, They wrecked the place and called in reinforcements. Their vehicles raced to the scene with lights glaring and sirens blaring. The crowd grew. Someone set a fire. More people came. For three days, people protested. And for the first time, after innumerable years of oppression, the chant, Gay Power, rang out"

Pride. I've written a lot about it. Especially gay pride. Each year there's festivals to celebrate it, festivals that recently I've not understood. In fact, I've denounced them (see my book You Can't Say That and the editorial "Ashamed of Pride"), in the past performed at them (as a singer and comic), and most recently avoided them. In my home town of Long Beach, CA for the past seven years I've had an excuse to run away from Pride Festival it was on that date seven years ago I lost my husband of almost 12 years to malpractice and gay bigotry, Andrew Lee Howard (the case settled).

But this year when Long Beach Pride rolled around the air was different. The previous Thursday the California Supreme Court legalized marriage in CA for same sex couples. It may stand, hopefully it will. But there was excitement in the air.

I called my 23 year old niece Heather in Seattle. She's Andy's sister's eldest and she recently came out as a lesbian while living at Park Howard, my home. Given the circumstances I asked since it was my first Pride parade in seven years, and given the ruling, if she'd like to fly down. She said yes, so a quick ticket on Virgin America and here she was.

The Parade was on a Sunday as always. And there were the dykes on bikes, the buttless chap guys, the flatbed trucks with gyrating half naked men and the alcohol companies with huge busses serving as commercial breaks between entries putting fossil fuels to such good use. But there was more. Along the parade route and in the parade, there people of all ages, celebrating, truly celebrating, truly proud.

This is the spirit of Christopher Street. This is the spirit of the Stonewall Inn, where so many years ago upon the death of icon Judy Garland and the desire to not be harassed any more a group of drag queens threw down the sequined glove heard round the world. Enough was enough, fair was fair.

And the California Supreme Court said the same thing. As I celebrated, I saw signs that said "Gay Marriage is Now Our Right" and I thought, "no it isn't." Marriage isn't anybody's right. No one has a right to gay marriage, it's not in the Constitution. So under the law, there's no given right. The only time the "right" comes up is when someone tries to take it away.

I won't get on a tangent here, but remember, the ruling was about EQUAL PROTECTION not about gay marriage. Marriage is contract law, and as such, is governed by those rules. You cannot have a contract that two people can enter and then say two others can't because of some reason like race, religion or yes, sexual orientation. It's discrimination under the Equal Protection clause. The Republican Supreme Justice, hell, the three Republicans and one Democrat, that legalized same sex marriage in our state boiled it down to what those that oppose marriage fear the most: logic. Logically, under the law, gays must be allowed to marry or no one can. The same applied for interracial marriage. It wasn't until 196 7 that the last state legalized that (we in CA did it in the 1940's).

The night of the ruling CA state legislature Carol Migden was on my radio show on KGO AM 810, as were the litigants in the case. Each knew of my case, the case that a few years back made AB 205 and AB 25 retroactive so people subjudice that were same sex couples could sue for wrongful death even if their partner died before the legislation. In my ruling it stated, "We believe it is the legislature's intent to expand, not limit, the rights of same sex partners
" I read that to Ms. Migden and said YOU are that legislature and I thank you for it. I thank you for legislation that I later amended so I could make the state recognize that Andrew and I mattered and that I deserved to be heard in court as his spouse in a wrongful death action. Yes, I cried on air. It was a historic day and I'm the only openly gay host working in the Bay area, so yes, everyone was waiting for my show and they got what they usually do, my heart. And my heart was proud that day. And because of that pride, I gave Pride a chance.

So back to Pride. My lifelong friends attended with me, Ken (The first Mr. Gay Pride Orange County many years ago), his husband Dennis, the other Dennis (Phoenix Empress X and XIII of all OC Empress D), Tavio, Amspaugh, the usual suspects. We were at Amspaugh's house, on the parade route. And as I sat on the porch watching Heather looking spectacularly, watching Ken photographing madly (I used to be the photog, now I'm the diva and he's the photog), watching my family hold hands, being proud, kissing, Ken and Dennis planning their ceremony, well, for the risk of sounding like Michelle Obama, for the first time in a long time I was proud of my community.

I bought a $5 pride flag from the gay pride profiteer and we all signed it. I gave it to Heather. Then she told me this was her first gay pride event. That was it. I had tried not to lose it all day, but I did. It was too much. Right near the day Andrew died, her uncle, my husband, my first gay pride in seven years, marriage equality that I helped fight for and my niece's first Pride? Andrew would have been proud. I was proud.

You see, I finally realized what I'm most proud of it's Heather. It's the younger gays and lesbians that GET it. That don't spend every hour in a bar, drinking, dumping substances down their throats. The ones that can do that and might, but realize they also have to vote, to be a part of society, to integrate without assimilating. I was proud of the young Disney Dancers in the parade, the gay hotel workers association, the gay lawyers, the gay political representatives.suddenly all the good elements of our community were on display right next to the provocative and for once, the freak show didn't win out. The spirit of true Pride did.

I have been asked to be the honorary grand marshall for San Jose pride June 15th. Heather is riding with me. I would have said "no" last year. But I learned an important lesson this year about Pride: all those years of running away from the festival here, of being out of town, of trying to avoid the pain of the loss of Andrew that weekend, the reminders
well, when I ran away I may have found solace in another city but I was missing my family, missing the pride of loving, the pride of being together, the pride of true love.

The State Supreme Court of CA helped me find my Pride this year. I hope we keep it, and we spread that feeling across all 50 states. This season of Pride, we have a reason to celebrate in California. The courts got it right. We should congratulate Gavin Newsome, who I once denounced because of the backlash caused by his marriage license spree (11 states voted afterwards to ban our unions). Now, I see I was wrong about that, too. Gavin did what he needed to make sure his state was the one that got it right. Well, it did.

I don't know that next year I'll feel the same. But this year, I'm attending all the Pride's I can. Congratulations to all in my community this year, we won a battle, but not the war. I am proud of all of you. And I love you all. Sappy, but true.