Stories of Love ... and Loss

By Ross von Metzke

Originally published on Advocate.com February 12 2009 12:00 AM ET

Last fall we interviewed 14 married couples and
photographed 24 total couples for our last story on marriage
equality in California before Proposition 8 was
approved by voters in the November election. The
ballot initiative rescinded equal marriage rights, but
these couples have persevered. Here is a look at where their
lives have taken them since Prop.
8's passage. 

Jay Mendes and Vantha Sao

If you took part in any of the Proposition 8
rallies that followed, what stands out to you as the
most memorable experience?
History will record the passage of Proposition 8
as the catalyst of a new wave of gay activism. Our
momentary anger and disappointment that more [people]
did not join the fight with us in the months prior to the
election quickly gave way to an embrace of all who were now
awakened, emboldened. It was heartening, after the
election, walking down Santa Monica Boulevard [in los
Angeles] with hundreds of gays and straights of every
age and background, packing San Vicente Boulevard with a few
thousand bodies for rallies and marches that happily
received significant media coverage. We were also
moved at the Mormon temple in Westwood the first day
of protests, when we looked back as we circled the grounds
and saw a sea of energized young people, who literally
had our backs.

What do you think the logical next step is in
legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the state?
Our fingers are crossed that the court will
invalidate Proposition 8. Failing that, a group that
has been working to protect same-sex marriage in
California since last May, LoveHonorCherish.org, will seek to
place a measure on an upcoming ballot to repeal Proposition
8.

Would you ever consider moving to another state if
they were to legalize same-sex marriage?
Our home is West Hollywood. Period.

Joyce Croker and Joan EllinghamWhat was your first reaction when you found out
that Proposition 8 passed on Election Day?
Joyce: I felt horribly betrayed and angry, but
somehow not surprised. The Prop. 8 bigots were
well-supported and well-organized. We were naive to
not have been better organized in our anti campaigns.

Joan: I was saddened that so many people wanted to
take away our rights in the name of Jesus. I hardly
think he would have approved. (I am still a practicing
Catholic.)

If you took part in any of the Proposition 8
rallies that followed, what stands out to you as the
most memorable experience?
Joyce: I attended the rally downtown rally on
November 15. It was quite moving how many people, gay
and straight of all ages and ethnicities, showed up to
support us. I don't believe I've attended a political
rally since the anti-Vietnam war protest marches of the
early '70s. It felt good and necessary to be there to
show solidarity.

Would you ever consider moving to another state if
it were to legalize same-sex marriage?
Joyce: It's more an issue of where we won't move, if
there is no domestic partnership, antidiscrimination
laws, or same-sex marriage. We own a house in the
mountains in Utah, which we use as a vacation home. As
long as they discriminate against gays, we won't consider
retiring there.

Joan: We believe in voting with our pocketbooks; we
aren't terribly interested in increasing the revenue
of antigay states. I am retired, and Joyce will
hopefully retire within the next five years. We'll
move to, and contribute our tax dollars to a state that
supports our marriage.

 

Julie and Sara Berger

What has changed the most about your life since
Proposition 8 passed in California?
Since Election Day we welcomed our beautiful
triplets into our family. Samuel, Charlotte, and
Oliver were born on October 24, 2008, and they make us
want to fight even harder for our rights. Sadly, because our
marriage is not recognized on a federal level, we've had to
begin adoption proceedings for us both to be legal
parents of our kids.

What do you think the logical next step is in
legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the state?
The GLBT community and our friends and family
who support us need to get better organized and angry.
We all need to be committed to get the message out
that we are normal, tax-paying, good people who deserve
equality.

Zsa Zsa Gershick and Elissa Barrett

If you took part in any of the Proposition 8
rallies that followed, what stands out to you as the
most memorable experience?
The outstanding aspect of all the rallies was
how peacefully people conducted themselves despite the
affront to our civil liberties that Prop. 8
represented. Also, the size of the L.A. rallies was vastly
underreported, and any negativity magnified. The L.A.
Times,
for instance, ran a photo of the Mormon
temple march that pictured a demonstrator being handcuffed
by police. The image clearly was meant to convey the
character of the event as rowdy, which it was not. The
downtown march, with thousands crowding the Civic
Center, should have made front-page news. The sight of
endless lines of people pouring out of the Red Line
was unforgettable.

Would you ever consider moving to another state if
it were to legalize same-sex marriage?
Massachusetts and Connecticut have recognized
marriage equality. But we're Californians. We're not
moving, we're fighting.

 

Eric A. Manriquez and Juan M. Rivera

What has changed the most about your life since
Proposition 8 passed in California?
We are uncertain of our future as a married
couple. We don't know if we will be forcibly divorced
in the near future by the state of California. We
have, however vowed to continue our daily fight to regain
our civil rights as humans.

What do you think the logical next step is in
legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the state?
We think we are on the right track. The fact
that there were lawsuits filed in court and that might
overturn the passage of Prop. 8 should raise more
awareness to all persons residing in California ,and for
that matter, the union will eventually teach everyone
that we are just like everyone else.

Would you ever consider moving to another state if
it were to legalize same-sex marriage?
At this point, we would not. We might consider
moving to another country where all persons are
treated the same under the law. It is amazing that in
a country where there are so many liberties, there are many
laws that discriminate against a few persons.

Robert and Thomas Van Etten

What was your first reaction when you found out
that Proposition 8 passed on Election Day?
Our first reaction was, “How much money
was donated by churches (Mormon Church and American
Family Association)?” There was no way we could
compete with the money raised to pass Prop 8. We were
devastated by how many people worked to oppose us and
how many minority groups voted against us. We were
hurt and deeply saddened.

What has changed the most about your life since
Prop. 8 passed?
What has changed most since the passage of
Proposition 8 in our lives is living with the fear
that a legal contract that we executed with the state
of California might be made null and void by people who do
not know us, do not know our stories and the fact that
many of us have been in long-term, committed
relationships. We have been in ours for 40 years, and
people who have religious beliefs want to control our lives.
We also have a great fear that legislating civil
rights through the ballot box never has been used
before and should not be used this time around. Prop 8
should be considered unconstitutional. If we had put to the
vote civil rights for African-Americans, they would
have lost too.

 

John Manelski and Jordan Brusso

What was your first reaction when you found out
that Proposition 8 passed on Election Day?
I think we were obviously shocked, but beyond
that I was personally hurt. We hoped that somehow the
absentee ballots would swing prop 8 our way. Then we
were angry that the vote was so close. They were expecting
that possibly 5% of votes would vote the wrong way
because of a lack of understanding. We lost by less
than that!

If you took part in any of the Proposition 8
rallies that followed, what stands out to you as the
most memorable experience?
We were in Austin, Texas, for the November 15
rally and joined about 700 Texans! It was good to know
that people all around the country were angry and
voicing that anger.

Would you ever consider moving to another state if
it were to legalize same-sex marriage?
Our daughter and our families are here. We are
needed here to be counted among the intelligent
citizens of California for the next vote on gay
rights.