Prop 8 rally and appeal

Last week Thom and I spoke to a crowd of fellow marriage-equality supporters at a gathering before the federal Prop 8 appeal in San Francisco. As you may recall, Prop 8, which took away the right to same-sex marriage in California, was overturned but that decision was appealed by the ban’s proponents. Last Monday the burden was theirs to show that they had standing to bring the appeal and to argue the constitutionality of Prop 8.

The rally beforehand drew a large, energetic crowd outside the courthouse, and I thank our friends at Marriage Equality USA, especially Molly McKay, Stuart Gaffney, and John Lewis for reaching out to us and helping us become “love warriors” in the fight for equal rights. Here are the remarks we made that morning:

THOM: Good morning. I’m Thom Watson. I grew up in the 60s and 70s in a rural conservative Virginia town. As a child I dreamed of marrying and having a family. But as a gay man I was told that this would never happen, that I was not entitled to that dream.

When I was 17, the D.A.R. named me their statewide “Good Citizen” awardee. But as a gay man I was told that I was not a good citizen of Virginia, not an equal citizen, and never would be.

Jeff and I met in 2003. After sharing a life and home for three years, to the state of Virginia we were still legally strangers. In my childhood Virginia had gone to the Supreme Court to try to keep interracial marriage illegal. In 2006 it was about to pass one of the most restrictive anti-gay amendments, banning marriage as well as any other legal recognition of our relationships and calling into question even wills and powers of attorney. The writing on the wall was clear, so we moved here, to Jeff’s home state.

We came here in large part because California was the promised land where we were to find the equality others take for granted. I took a job with the state, and swore to defend the state constitution. But Prop 8 amended that constitution to take my rights away and make me a second-class citizen here. After its passage, I felt the same way I imagine gay and lesbian soldiers might, as they fight to safeguard a nation from whose guarantees of equal protection they are unconstitutionally excluded by Prop 8, DOMA, and ENDA.

I still have that childhood dream of marrying the one I love. He’s standing right here beside me. And now I believe that dream can come true, as Prop 8 finally falls for good.

JEFF: Good morning! My name is Jeff Tabaco, and I am proud to be here with my partner Thom and with all of you to restore equal marriage rights in California. If you had told me ten or twenty years ago that the tide would soon turn to recognize marriage rights for LGBT people, and that I could play some small part in it, I probably wouldn’t have dared to dream it. But to touch on a related theme in the LGBT community that hopefully we have all heard by now and we continue to spread: it gets better. It gets better because — you, me, our families, our friends, our allies — we all make it better.

As the son of immigrants, I grew up very aware of the search for a better life. My parents left the Philippines knowing there would be difficult changes ahead, but that their lives could change for the better. My mother’s favorite saying is, “As I breathe, I hope.” So as long as we are here, we keep fighting. We keep living our lives. And for my life, for our lives, the fight for equal rights is crucial to realizing the full potential of our true selves, openly and honestly.

I am a proud Californian. But I will be more proud of this great state when I can marry the person I love, when once again all are treated equally under the law, and when the shame and discrimination of Prop 8 are finally put to rest! Thank you!

We were just two of many speakers that morning — including Jesse Jackson via cell phone — all of whom had a very personal connection to civil rights. After the rally we went into the courthouse to watch the two-hour hearing, which was broadcast to an overflow courtroom. It was exciting to watch, and I remain optimistic that Judge Walker’s original ruling reinstating equal marriage rights will be upheld. But for now we wait. Again.

Note: Many thanks go to Julie Bernstein for her continuous support and her photographic skills. The photos above are by her; check out her photo gallery of the rally.


Impressionism at the de Young and Legion of Honor

The last couple of weekends we took advantage of our museum memberships and went to a few art exhibits in San Francisco. If you’re in the area, definitely check out the major Impressionism exhibits, one of which closes on Labor Day: Birth of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay at the de Young. [Update (September 3): I just read that tickets for the final days are now sold out. Read on for other available exhibits.]

The Legion of Honor, which has same-day admission reciprocity with the de Young, has a companion exhibit called Impressionist Paris: City of Light, closing September 26. The de Young exhibit definitely had the marquee paintings, but I actually found the Legion of Honor exhibit a bit more quirky and interesting with its variety of posters, book illustrations, and so forth, in addition to paintings.

And if you can’t get enough Impressionism, just wait, there’s more! Both museums will have additional related exhibits later this fall and into the new year.

We also went to SFMOMA for Calder to Warhol: Introducing the Fisher Collection (closes September 19), a wide-ranging exhibition with works by the modern greats.

All these museums are beautiful buildings and sites in their own right and a great way to spend an afternoon in the city. Food note: After the de Young, go have a meal at Park Chow and for dessert get the warm ginger cake with pumpkin ice cream. It’s de rigueur in my book.


The Prop 8 wait

Same-sex marriage is in a holding pattern in California. Proposition 8, the gay-marriage ban, got overturned in federal district court (yay), but the judgment was temporarily stayed (boo). Then the stay was lifted (yay), but the effect of that was delayed a week (boo). Then the proponents appealed to the circuit court and were granted a stay (boo), but the court expedited the case to begin this December (yay). And then there’s also the mysterious cloud hanging over all of this: whether the proponents even have standing to appeal. Whew!

The entire Prop 8 trajectory has been a roller coaster of events, and August 12 was an emotional roller coaster of a day. We went to San Francisco City Hall in the morning to await word on the stay and see if we could get married. Our good friend Julie Bernstein, who had also been our wedding photographer last year, surprised us by meeting us at City Hall to offer emotional support and document what we hoped would be our legal-wedding day. To finish the job, as it were.

After waiting for a few hours in line with other gay and lesbian couples at the county clerk’s office, we were overjoyed to find out the stay was lifted, but then just minutes later disappointed to hear of the delay. Same sex-marriage may be on hold for now, but given the current momentum, we are optimistic for marriage equality and know that we will get there eventually. Julie created a lovely photo essay of that day last week; please take a look: “A Second Chance for Their Wedding Day.”

Thanks to our friends and family for their support and encouragement! And on a grander scale, thanks to the plaintiffs and their legal team for their efforts, and to Judge Vaughn Walker for his legal reasoning. The overturning of Prop 8 is a win for the Constitution and for civil rights.

» See also Thom’s blog entry “‘Not Getting Married Today.'”


Nightlife (and a blast from the past) at the Academy

Last night Thom and I went to Nightlife, the California Academy of Science‘s weekly Thursday night party, and it was a lot of fun. We sort of went on the spur of the moment and it was sold out online, but they were selling tickets at the door, and thanks to Thom’s membership, we didn’t have to wait long to get our tickets.

It was my second time to the new Academy, but my first time in the planetarium. That show (narrated by Sigourney Weaver), which takes you on a short trip through the universe, is pretty amazing. Stuff like that reminds you how vast space is and how small we are. After that we saw a special movie/performance piece called Bella Gaia, which focuses on the Earth, mixing satellite images and data visualizations with the words of International Space Station astronauts. The director was there to present the film; he is also a violinist, and he played violin during the movie as part of the score.

(South Park viewers will be pleased to know that I pronounce it planet arium. Thom and I always crack up at this clip, below. “And these two little stars over here form the constellation The Crusades.” Hahaha.)

Afterward, we wandered the museum and spent the rest of the evening at the aquarium exhibits. It’s a fun vibe at Nightlife. (And you save a lot over the regular daytime admission, which is always nice!)

And now a blast from the past. Here’s a photo of me with my paternal grandparents, taken in March 1980 when I was almost three years old, in front of the old Academy of Sciences building. The only things I remember about the old Academy are the circular fish tank and the giant Foucault pendulum. And did they have an earthquake simulator or was that at the Exploratorium?

California Academy of Sciences (1980)



Prius preview

On Sunday we went to Fort Mason in San Francisco for a preview of the next-generation Toyota Prius. The event was a nice little shindig, where we had a light brunch and got to take a look at the redesigned 2010 model, which the Toyota folks tentatively said would be available this May.

We also got to take a test drive but were asked not to share any “driving impressions” until after March 25. Photos and video were otherwise allowed; I have a few photos up on Flickr, and I put together a video showing a demo of one of the new features, “Intelligent Parking Assist”:

I’m lukewarm over the new exterior, but it does look sportier and sleeker. The new features like parking guidance and the redesigned interior information displays make this model very tempting! We’re thinking we may get one eventually. (I say quietly so as not to make Thom’s current Prius nervous.)

It was a gorgeous day out, so afterward we drove across the Golden Gate Bridge and parked at the vista point on the Marin side. We walked partway onto the bridge and took in the sights.

More photos from the Golden Gate Bridge here.


Park Chalet

Last Sunday Thom and I ended up having an impromptu afternoon at a few westside San Francisco spots. We were looking for a place to have brunch, and we decided on the Park Chalet, which is just behind its more visible sibling, the Beach Chalet, on Great Highway. They have a buffet brunch on Sundays; I think my favorite thing was the crème brûlée french toast, yum.

Afterward we went across the street to Ocean Beach and walked around for a bit, then drove up to the Legion of Honor museum, where we happened to arrive just as the weekly organ concert was starting. All great sights, so that means another video! And a few additional photos (map) are up on Flickr.

When I tested the video with my focus group, i.e., Thom, he said the music for the Ocean Beach segment was “very 90210.” Ha!