Op-ed: Why Gavin Newsom Is as Much a Gay Rights Hero as Harvey Milk

If you live in California and plan to marry now, you owe him a heap of thanks for paving the way.



Above: The best moment at our 2006 wedding was just the two of us crashing on the lawn.

Four years later, the California Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples had the constitutional right to marry. That June, Martin and Lyon, again, were the first to marry in San Francisco. Everyone again rushed from the office after getting a tip about Del and Phyllis. Everyone celebrated, kissed, let reporters follow them around, and knew they were legally wed — until they weren’t.

Proposition 8, the California ballot measure, passed that November after a bloody, polarizing battle in which many LGBT Californians realized who their true friends were. It changed the California constitution to say that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in the state.

More weddings down the drain.

But something else had happened to us in the meantime. Suzy had come out — as a transgender man. Suddenly I had no wife, I had a husband named Jake. And after his transition was under way, we had to decide if we’d marry again. In California — unlike some states — opposite-sex couples in which one person is trans have little difficulty marrying. So getting a marriage license was a piece of cake. 

But we now we had a moral quandary. Through a fluke called gender reassignment, we now had rights that our LGB friends did not. So was it fair to marry? Should we hold out until everyone could marry in California? We turned to our friends and fellow activists and asked them. Everyone knew we had battled for marriage rights for years and had always tried to get more recognition for our relationship. in part so that we didn’t have to trust our family to do the right thing if one of us dies or is hospitalized and so we can consolidate our damn student loans (I had battled Sallie Mae for years trying to do so as a same-sex couple, something it still refuses to allow, I believe).

Uniformly, all our friends and colleagues told us to marry. So we did.