Remember the Mad
Hatter? "I'm late, I'm late for a very
important date, hurry up, slow down, hurry up, slow
down, I'm late, I'm late, I'm
late." My partner, Diane, and I will be the
first and only gay couple to be married in Los
Angeles County on Monday, June 16 because the first
lawsuit filed in California challenging the
constitutionality of the ban on same-sex marriage (the
one that became the successful supreme
court marriage case) was filed by us--Tyler et
al vs. County of LA.
Rev. Troy Perry
and his partner, Phillip Ray de Bliek, filed with us as
they wanted California to recognize their Canadian marriage.
And we did this against the advice of gay attorneys
and organizations who warned us we would not win
because it was a conservative Republican appointed
court, and "How could we without consulting these
attorneys?" Well, we won, and many still
haven't forgiven us for filing the suit.
and I'm late, I'm late, for a very important
date. My union AFTRA (American Federation of
Television and Radio Artists) would not give my
partner Diane medical insurance after I retired because we
were "just domestic partners." The AFTRA woman
said, "That's just the way it is, hon" and hung
up. I called my friend Gloria Allred, told her what
happened, and her law firm agreed to represent us in court
for marriage rights (pro bono by the way).
Every time we
appeared on television, I said, "We sued because
AFTRA will not give my partner medical insurance after
I retire because we are not married, we are just
domestic partners." Finally, three months before I
retired, AFTRA changed their medical plan and extended
medical insurance to vested same-sex partners after
they retire, the first show business union to do so.
AFTRA said they had been working on it all along.
So, our lawsuit
wasn't a reaction to Mayor Newsom marrying couples.
(This was a great and brave thing for him to do, and
we supported it). But we announced our lawsuit at 9
a.m., February 12--three hours prior to Gavin
beginning the marriages, which we knew nothing about until
we saw him perform the marriages on TV. Our lawsuit
was an action, taken by us, prior to the S.F.
marriages. I was fed up with the discrimination of my
union. And my partner, who is 11 years younger then me,
needed that insurance.
Gloria filed for
us on Feb. 24, 2004. When the S.F. marriages were
annulled on March 11, 2004, the San Francisco city attorneys
office and LGBT legal organizations, as well as the
ACLU, sued on their behalf, and we were all
consolidated into one case.
Last week, when
we were being counseled by Rabbi Denise Eger on what
would happen during our marriage ceremony, which she is
performing, a television reporter asked to drop by.
Then the reporter and the cameraman followed us to
Cake-Art, a gay owned bakery which is fantastic, and is
making our wedding cake. And then they followed us to the
Beverly Hills Courthouse where we had announced the
lawsuit in 2004. And what did the reporter want to
know? How much everything was going to cost! She is
doing a national TV show this Tuesday morning on the
financial impact of same-sex marriages on California.
Fine. But she kept asking, "What is the budget for
your wedding?" "What were we going to wear?" (suits).
"How much did the suits cost?" (we couldn't
remember). "How much money was California going to
make by granting us civil rights?" I kept wondering if
she had interviewed Rosa Parks whether she would have
asked her how much the bus cost, and if her bold stand
would increase public transportation revenue.
I were both beginning to feel angry and embarrassed.
Money, money, money, money. I finally blurted out
"California will make hundreds of millions of
dollars, enough to fund the Iraq war for about a
week!" She didn't get it. We tried talking
about the decades of activists who fought for this for
so long--for us it was about civil rights. The
decision was not just about marriage. For the first time in
American history, a state supreme court recognized our
community as a "suspect class" entitled to all the
rights and privileges of heterosexuals. And this
reporter was concerned with how much the floral arrangements
cost? I told her it would be a simple wedding, held in front
of the Beverly Hills Courthouse, ground zero in the
California Supreme Court same-sex marriage
case, and that a few things were being donated to
thank us for filing the lawsuit. But where would we
honeymoon? I answered, "Right here in California,
fighting the upcoming constitutional
amendment," since being together for 15 years we
had already consummated the relationship. She
hadn't heard a thing. Without skipping a beat,
she said "Hawaii?" We ran, and I thought,
I'm late, I'm late, for a very important
Which brings me
to what I have been thinking about. The major
organizations came out with an article last week called
"Make Change, Not Lawsuits." They
recommend that the out-of-state gay couples who come to
California to marry should not run back to their states and
sue, when in a just a few years, public opinion will
change, and we will have a better chance of winning
our rights. Although the organizations are well
intentioned, they might not know what you and I know.
control 30 million people, especially lesbians and gays. In
the states where they have passed initiatives or illegal
constitutional amendments there is frustration beyond
the boiling point. While I agree this is not the time
to pursue a federal lawsuit, I understand the emotions
of our community. Gay people in other states will look at
California, and there will be an internal rage that emerges
in some that will compel them to just not take it
anymore. The injustice that has been heaped upon them,
day after day, week after week, year after year, has
cumulated in the final insult, by taking away rights
they have never had.
And, they will
sue. Win or lose, they will sue. Right or wrong, they will
sue. Whether you or I agree with it, they will sue. Rage is
impossible to control. It's a volcano. It finally
explodes, and so the organizations must not be
surprised if they go back and tie up the court system all
over this country. If this happens, (and I am not
encouraging it, merely saying the tail wags the dog)
we must go to plan B. If these lawsuits happen, and
these plaintiffs lose, let us begin to organize thousands to
turn out on the streets on any day there is a negative
ruling against our community (and we don't have
to wait for more rulings, we can do it right now
against the previous rulings).
Let us show them,
as the civil rights movement did in the 1960s, and the
AIDS movement in the '80s, that we will not take this
passively. Yes, we all want to have everyone get to
know us and love us and hopefully they will support us
when we come out to them. But power is never given, it is
taken. And that's what being a movement means; to
move. Because we are all late, we're late, for
a very important date--equality. Yours truly,
The Mad Hatter.
Robin Tyler, and her wife, Diane Olson, are two of
the original plaintiffs in the California same-sex
marriage lawsuits that led to the historic supreme
court decision. Tyler blogs regularly for the