Day of Decision Op-ed: Looking Before I Leap for Joy
By Lucia Chappelle
Originally published on Advocate.com June 07 2013 8:00 AM ET
On the Day of Decision, I'll be looking very hard before I do any leaping for joy. I plan to be studying up beforehand, because the one thing I know for certain is that the legalities involved have multiple layers, and that in those first hours the court's ruling will get as many interpretations as there are players invested in painting the outcome in a way most flattering or threatening, depending their own agendas.
As the titans of the pro- and anti-LGBT industries vie to dominate the spin, I'll be working on my own analysis. Not that I'm not trusting; a wise person once told me that the important thing was knowing what to trust someone for.
It's just that when the Proposition 8 case was first floated, a lot of experts weren't nearly as confident about its chances as the Boies-Olson-AFER axis. They warned the result could become a major setback. It no longer seems that we're likely to get a decision that totally nullifies any rights queer couples have won, but there could be worse things than "no." If "yes" to California comes at the price of a long and torturous state-by-state "maybe" for the rest of the country, we could be arguably worse off.
I'm old enough to remember what it was like to leave the relatively benign Northeast to summer in Jim Crow America — and never kid yourself into believing that the lack of rights in one part of the country didn't degrade the rights supposedly secure elsewhere.
On the Day of Decision, when I've gotten a handle on what exactly the decision is, I'll take to the streets since I'm that kind of person. When we were organizing the United for Marriage: Los Angeles demonstration on the eve of the Supreme Court hearings earlier this year, even key figures in the marriage equality struggle asked "Why?" They questioned what would be the purpose. "What were we protesting against?" "Why would people come out to such an event?"
I'm an old-fashioned activist. Some of the best political education I ever got came from going to demonstrations. It's not just about the target: Demonstrators aren't just talking to "the enemy" and they aren't just posing for the press. Information is shared, opinions start to form, word is spread, contacts are made, participation is inspired, the seeds of future strategies germinate.
After the Supreme Court has spoken, there will be a lot of work ahead. If we want to chart our direction as a broad-based community rather than put our fate in the hands of an elite few, the Day of Decision will be the time to present our critical, public response to whatever the Court rules. It will also be the time to begin talking among ourselves about just what has happened and how to proceed.
On the Day of Decision, I'll be lighting a candle for my friend Richard Adams, who passed away last December. Legally married to Tony Sullivan, an Australian citizen, in 1975, Richard was a pioneer in the issue now considered a cornerstone of LGBT liberation — then treated as barely worth mentioning for both political and cultural reasons — bringing the first federal lawsuit for the right to be treated equally as a couple. Richard would be happy at the progress we've made. He'd also be keenly aware that a states' rights-affirming ruling would give off the same rotten stench that's rising from the betrayal of binational same-gender couples in the current immigration reform negotiations. He'd be reminding us as well that our equality doesn't begin or end with marriage. On the Day of Decision, Richard would be demanding to know, "So, what are you going to do now?"
LUCIA CHAPPELLE was a minister in Metropolitan Community Church and a journalist in alternative media. In the 1970s and '80s, she worked as interim pastor of All Saints MCC in West Hollywood, dean of Samaritan Theological Institute, and pastor of the radical lesbian feminist DeColores MCC. Lucia helped start the Gay Radio Collective that has produced IMRU on KPFK-Pacifica, Los Angeles since 1975, and is currently the associate producer of This Way Out, an internationally syndicated, weekly LGBT radio program. She also was KPFK's program director from the mid-'80s to mid-'90s, and was part of the original news team at PlanetOut. Lucia is now the social justice minister at Founders MCC in Los Angeles.