Originally Heard on the John Selig Outspoken Podcast
On Saturday evening April 17th 2004 I married my husband, Rodolfo Arredondo, at a beautiful ceremony attended by his parents and other family members, my son and friends of both of ours. We had a beautiful evening wedding held in a charming restaurant in Toronto, Canada. Judge Harvey Brownstone officiated at our wedding and he and his partner, Morty, enjoyed dinner and dancing with the rest of our guests. Many who attended the wedding had said that they have never seen two people more in love and that it was one of the most beautiful weddings that they had attended in years.
Rodolfo and I had met nearly 2 1/2 years before we were married and had moved into our condo a year earlier. Some friends and coworkers asked why it was so important that we marry. Some gay friends went as far as to question why we would want to take part in a heterosexual custom. Others expressed concerns that our pushing the envelope in fighting for our right to be married in the United States would backfire and hurt progress along other civil right fights that the GLBT community has been confronting. Evan Wolfson argues that the fight for marriage rights has moved forward gay rights as a whole through continued attention to discrimination faced by gays and lesbians
Having been married to my son’s mom for thirteen years prior to coming out I was well aware of what it was like to be married. Unfortunately, in denying my sexual orientation to myself I was unable to be the kind of husband that society dictated and my wife expected to me to be. After meeting Rodolfo and then falling in love with him I knew that this was the person with whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life. Both of us believed in the commitments and responsibilities that come with marriage and we both were determined that we wouldn’t make do with anything less.
Some three years after our wedding I can honestly say that marrying Rodolfo was the best decision I ever made. He is the joy of my life and when we see each other at the end of each day I feel a rush of adrenalin and deep warmth grow inside. No matter how bad the day might have been I have Rodolfo. Spending time with him is the most joyful part of my life. Our relationship was extremely strong before we married. However, it grew even deeper after the ceremony. Somehow being married did make a difference. We know that we are truly a family and that we be there for each other always. What impacts him also impacts me and visa versa. Although this may not be necessary for all couples it certainly is important for us.
My dad and his family were forced to flee Germany in 1935. They were amongst the fortunate Jews who were able to get out before things got really tough. They knew what it was like to be marginalized and used as scapegoats. My dad was in the United States Army Air Corps as a tail gunner on a B–17 During World War II. His plane was shot down during his first mission and he spent a year in a German POW camp before being liberated at the end of the war. Dad raised me never to accept being treated as a second–class citizen.
The right wing political fundamentalists seem to be having great joy at using the gay and lesbian community as their scapegoats the way Hitler used the Jews and the way that the fundamentalists previously used African Americans and women. I for one am not going to sit back and take it. Unlike my dad and his family I don’t think I need to flee my home country in order to be treated as a human being with the same rights as others. However, I’m not willing to sit back quietly and settle for leftovers.
I find it abhorrent that Rodolfo and I don’t have the same rights as others who are married. I will continue to speak out, write letters to elected officials, sign petitions, write letters to the editor and be available for interviews, I will educate heterosexuals about why this issue is critical to gays and lesbians that same–sex couples must have the right to marry just the way it was important for interracial couple to gain the right to marry a mere 40 years ago and just like it was important for women to be treated as equal partners in a marriage and not chattel.
Advancement in civil rights always involves a combination of education and judicial rulings. My biggest concern in presidential elections is always the impact of any U. S. Supreme Court appointments that the President will get to make. That is one reason why I will never vote to put a Republican in the White House. As the Democrats go through the primary season their positions on same–sex marriage will be critical in my decision on who to support. Civil unions are not an acceptable alternative to marriage. State and federal laws give over 1,100 rights to married couples and civil unions won’t do the same. I refuse to be forced to sit in the back of the bus. Being allowed to sit in the middle of the bus and still not the front isn’t good enough. My dad didn’t fight in World War II and be imprisoned in a POW Camp not knowing if he would be put to death for having the word “Jewish” on his dog tags so that his son would be treated as less than!
Evan Wolfson has an excellent quote in his book, “Why Marriage Matters,” from columnist Deb Price from a 2003 column of hers. He comment is, “Those heterosexuals still uneasy with same–sex marriage often ask, ‘Why marriage? Why not call it something else?’ Our answer is, ‘Simple, because then it would be something else.’”
As each of you talk with family members and friends, help them understand why it is important that we have the same rights as heterosexuals to marry. Remember, any progress made in understanding our plight will advance all the rights that we deserve, not just the one up for discussion.
Same–sex marriage is a key rallying cry by religious fundamentalists to raise the level of fear among those who don’t know us. The one thing that our foes do not want is for us to be humanized by sharing our stories. As Evan Wolfson stressed during our interview, our most powerful weapon is to tell our stories to everybody who will listen. I have taken the opportunity to share the story of Rodolfo’s and my marriage to many people and the process has proved empowering.
Go to FreedomToMarry.org and take the time to download the resources to familiarize yourselves with the tools and discussion points that you can utilize as you talk with family, friends and coworkers. Better yet, pick up a copy of Evan’s book, “Freedom To Marry.” Read it. It is a quick read and extremely well laid–out. During Evan’s interview, you no doubt were captivated by Evan’s knowledge and energy level. Both are equally noticeable in the book. When you have finished the book, get a copy for family members and friends and ask them to read it. Ask for their support. We can’t win this fight alone. We are outnumbered so we need friends, family coworkers, anybody in our livew to speak out on our behalf.
We will win this fight. But to do so, we all need to do our part!
© 2007 John R. Selig. All rights reserved.