Like the twister that transported Dorothy's house to Oz 75 years ago, a tornado of love and equality has swept away numerous states' bans on marriage for gay and lesbian couples over the last several days. Two places where same-sex couples have now married carry particular meaning for us: Milwaukee and Kansas City, our two hometowns. Although we have lived in California for over 30 years, we are still Midwesterners too and have family and life-long friends there whom we visit regularly.
On Monday, Oct. 6, same-sex couples began marrying in Wisconsin, hours after the United States Supreme Court let stand the federal appellate court ruling invalidating the state's marriage-equality ban. One of the plaintiff couples in the lawsuit described the moment as wonderful, after having watched straight friends marry the person they love over their 25 years together while they themselves lacked that freedom.
We remember when, a few years ago, at Stuart's 30th high-school reunion, John introduced himself to one of Stuart's former classmates as Stuart's husband, and the classmate laughed, thinking he was joking. When the classmate revealed that she had 19 children (many of them adopted), a straight-ally classmate admonished her that she had better develop understanding and respect for LGBT people because more than one of her children was likely LGBT. By the end of the night -- perhaps with the help of a bit of alcohol -- she was asking to have her picture taken with the husbands. Now marriage equality is the law in Wisconsin, and we look forward not only to wedding invitations but to keeping our legal rights as a married couple the next time we travel there.
On Friday, Oct. 10, the first marriage of a same-sex couple took place in Johnson County, Kansas, a thriving part of metropolitan Kansas City. In an extensive order, the chief district judge in Johnson County directed the county clerk to cease discrimination against same-sex couples in the issuance of marriage licenses, although the Kansas Supreme Court subsequently stopped further marriages of such couples until it could review the judge's order. After four states voted in favor of marriage equality in November 2012, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach declared, "If a person wants to live in a San Francisco lifestyle, they can go there. If they want to live a Kansas lifestyle, they can come here." Angela and Kelli, the happy couple who were able to marry, countered last Friday, "[Kansas] is our home state. This is where we live. This is where we pay our taxes. This is where we raise our children." On Friday, they didn't have to leave Kansas to find themselves over the rainbow.
The past 10 days represent a significant breakthrough in the marriage-equality and broader LGBT-equality movements as the number of states with marriage equality rose from 19 to 32 (plus the District of Columbia). The adrenaline highs and emotional roller coasters of the last several days have also become a mark of the marriage-equality movement, repeated now multiple times across the country and beginning with thousands of same-sex couples dashing to San Francisco City Hall in February 2004. No one should have to wait through the rain or remain poised outside a clerk's office for the moment a government official grants them their constitutional rights.
However, these visceral experiences of being denied, then struggling, and finally attaining our rights and freedoms have become etched indelibly in our consciousness and imbue us with personal and community agency and inspiration. The love, joy, dedication, and hope our community has shown as it has gathered and rallied outside courthouses, city halls, and clerks' offices across the country and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram in cyberspace is contagious.
Our nation sees how much we value our lives, our love, our place in the American community, and our constitutional rights. Dorothy repeated it three times 75 years ago: "There's no place like home." Although more work remains to be done, America, in these past 10 days, has donned its ruby slippers and taken giant steps toward making America home for LGBT people.
John Lewis and Stuart Gaffney, together for nearly three decades, were plaintiffs in the California case for equal marriage rights decided by the California Supreme Court in 2008. They are leaders in the nationwide grassroots organization Marriage Equality USA.
This piece was originally published in the San Francisco Bay Times.