We raised $4,504.90 toward the costs of a 12-stop speaking tour across the United States, on the topic of gay marriage. The total cost was $90,000, so you provided 5%. We decided on this grueling activity for our honeymoon, because we wanted to do something to legally solidify our marriage, and after 17 years of living and working together we’ve traveled a lot overseas.
The costs for Ron and I were $3000 total, so that extra $1504.90 went to pay for an additional rider to attend. There were 44 riders total. We are proud to report that we received donations from a complete range of people: an impoverished grad student, a public company CEO, a dentist, a real estate mogul, and everything in-between. We greatly appreciate your generous help.
Some of our friends left funny comments with their donations. I should call out Othar Hansson’s donation of $104.90, ten cents for every federal right or responsibility that comes with legal marriage, first because you might be wondering which goofball gave us $4.90, and second because the number was revised recently by the Office of Management and Budget, which put the number of federal rights/responsibilities closer to 1,138. Each state also adds a couple of hundred other rights.
The rights accorded by marriage are substantial. If you are still wondering whether marriage matters, let me give you a couple of specific examples: Due to an anti-gay marriage law recently passed in Virginia and a constitutional amendment in Missouri, if Ron visits either of these states, and if he should fall ill, even his Durable Power of Attorney may not allow me to visit him in the hospital or decide important medical matters if he is unable to communicate, Ron and I could not move to these states and expect health insurance to cover us as domestic partners. Our wills may be invalidated if we visit or move to these states.
I say “may” because the laws are written stridently, prohibiting recognition of any contractual arrangement (even opposite-sex arrangements) attempting to approximate marriage, but the courts must ultimately decide because they may conflict with the US Constitution. Ultimately, these laws appear to be ‘lawyer full-employment acts’ because they will generate enormous sums of money for the people hired to interpret these contradictory laws. The bitter lawsuits they engender will split families. The result will be nasty. My home state, Michigan, has such a constitutional amendment on the ballot.
Many marriage rights and responsibilities relate to supporting children. One surprising fact: while 50% of straight couples have children, 33% of lesbian couples and 25% of gay-male couples also have children. These lesbian and gay families have no protection in the area of child-support or parental visitation, and so divorce (if you can call it that), for many, ends up punishing the children.
The parallels between gay-marriage and interracial marriage are strong. You might not remember (or even been born), but the last state constitutional amendments banning interracial marriage were overturned by the Federal Supreme Court in 1967, not so long ago. Missouri holds the record for keeping its toothless anti-miscegenation laws on its books until 1969. I vividly remember that around that time my own parents were infuriated by the bigotry of anti-miscegenation, and expressed concern for friends — an interracial couple — whose parents refused to attend their wedding. ‘Activist courts’ were the ones who struck these anti-miscegination laws down. In 1967, 70% of American citizens were against interracial marriage, just as a similar percentage of Americans today oppose gay marriage. Yet today a majority of us would be totally embarrassed, or astonished, if a friend made a disparaging comment about an interracial couple.
Because most marriage rights and responsibilities are afforded by federal law, state-sponsored ‘civil unions’ are poor substitutes. Immigration rights, for example, are federal. There were three people on the caravan who expect to either have to leave the US to reside with their long-term partner (due to expiring student or work visas) or who have already left and returned just to come on the trip. Those who leave typically become ‘silent victims’ because they change their citizenship and stop participating in the American political process. This is a special burden for their parents, because gay children have difficulty caring for parents from overseas. Although only 3 countries currently recognize gay marriage, 16 countries do the humane thing and recognize ‘permanent partnerships’ for the purpose of immigration. (No, the US is not one of them.) In the area of taxes and inheritance, you are probably aware that Ron or I will get a big tax hit when one of us dies, with a possible risk of losing our house. This is not a concern for married couples.
Raising money for a cause is one thing, but using it wisely is another. Ron and I did our best to try to maximize the use of your funds to sway public opinion on the topic of gay marriage. We are especially interested in media and public relations, and we specifically used our technology talents to facilitate media.
In the weeks prior to our trip, Ron took on responsibility for spiffing two web sites: marriageequality.org is the site for Marriage Equality California, the organization sponsoring the caravan; equalityexpress.org links directly to the site for the caravan itself. He also wrote a blog along the trip documenting what we did. [Which you’re reading here! – Ron]
I provided logistical support for reporters on the trip: particularly wireless internet access to allow reporters and bloggers the ability to upload stories while driving down the road. The San Francisco Chronicle sent an ’embedded’ reporter and a photographer with us on the trip, their deadline was 5pm Pacific time each day. Reporter Rona Marech could be seen on the bus between about 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. wearing sound-deadening headphones, with her head wrapped in a sweater, so she could block out the singing or story-telling of other riders while she wrote. And then, at about 5:30 p.m. (yes, what a surprise, a reporter sending a story after the deadline) she would be scrambling to upload the story through my less-than-reliable ATT wireless connection. During the trip we discovered another person with a Verizon wireless internet connection, and between the two of us we were able to provide good service to the press.
If you like reading ‘general picture’ stories, I’ll invite you to read Rona’s daily articles on the trip at the SF Chronicle web site. You get a very vivid feel of the trip from Rona’s exceptional writing. These articles appeared in the print edition also. I believe the first article was above-the-fold, front-page.
If you are interested in the day-to-day activities of the speaking tour, see Ron’s blog.
If you are interested in a very personal, sometimes beautiful, sometimes snotty account of the emotions around the trip, check out Leslie Ewing’s blog.
The effects of your contribution, on the press, were big. We were covered (as I think you know) by CSPAN3. We got great international coverage of our rally in DC, with articles in the International Herald Tribune, Reuters, AP, the Guardian in London, the Washington Post, China Daily, SF Chronicle of course, etc.
During our trip, we appeared on various local news stations. We know this not because we saw them ourselves (we were typically either long-gone before the news, or we were riding on a bus when they played), but because people called us later to tell us. In the Bay Area, I can tell you that I talked about “the importance of telling our stories in the midwest” on Channel 7 news October 3, and Ron talked about the general importance of the trip on Channel 5 news October 5.
We carried with us on the journey a documentary film crew: Roland Torres and his assistant Anthony Perez. Halfway through the journey, Anthony landed in a drunk-tank in Denver (you can read the details in Ron and Leslie’s blogs), and essentially got both Roland and Anthony kicked off the caravan. Fortunately, Ron and I were in the vanagon, not the main big-bus. We saved Roland and Anthony’s documentary by taking them with us, somewhat in violation of the wishes of the “executive committee” running the event. I think in the end, everyone was happy about this, and hopefully the result will be a great documentary “An American Quest” to be aired on cable in late November. Roland says he’ll put us in the credits.
Because we hosted a number of slightly unapproved activities in our Vanagon, not only taking on the drunk documentary videographers, but also visiting Fred Phelp’s church in Topeka in violation of an overwhelming vote (see godhatesfags.com for details on Fred’s church), running over our allocated speaking time and other annoyances, we gave ourselves the name “The Bad Person Bus”. Though we were a little bad, we think we did a lot of good.
Now, I have returned to SF trying to concentrate on the business, which has suffered in the last 4 weeks due to our marriage and exhausting honeymoon. Ron is driving his van back home from Washington DC. Apparently, while he is driving back he is doing good things along the way. MECA’s Assistant Director Molly McKay (who one of you called “the hot chick in the wedding dress on CSPAN”) called to say, “On the way home, your husband seems to be inspiring people to take up the issue.” Specifically, he stopped in Lexington Kentucky to drop off some books (Why You Should Give a Damn about Gay Marriage, Davina Kotulski) and other materials. Ron isn’t back yet, so who knows what additional trouble he’ll cause.
We are so grateful that we could get married, and we are very thankful for the support of our families in that marriage. I don’t think I ever expected the outpouring of love we got at our wedding, and how different that was than a civil union or ‘just living together’. Having members of my family there made all the difference to me, and I so appreciate your kindness to them.
At a few stops along the trip I read my marriage vows to illustrate the value of our marriage. Those of you who attended our wedding know that I basically couldn’t get through these vows without breaking into tears. Not much changed even after saying them for the third time, maybe it got worse. A few of our friends watched the Washington rally on CSPAN, and sent emails like “Hey you guys, stop crying on national TV! :)”
Even if you did hear me say them publically in one place or another, you might not have deciphered the words through my blubbering. Ron and I did not put our vows in the program. Whenever we spoke them, people in the audience cried. People always came up to us afterwards and say they felt the same way, thanking us for saying it. Here they are:
My love, Ron Lussier, you are my favorite person in the world. Together, we have been richer and poorer. We have been sick and healthy. We have been shunned and acclaimed. We have been better and worse. And we have stuck by each other through it all. I am so glad to have you.
For 17 years, I, Daniel Rex Greening, committed myself to you as my one and only life partner. It was a private commitment, only a few knew how serious we were.
Today I publicly reaffirm my love for you before friends and family here today. I vow to love you and care for you, as long as we both shall live. I will help you when you need help, I will comfort you when times are difficult, and I will celebrate with you when times are good.
You are my friend, my lover, my partner, my everything. And today I marry you. I love you so much, Ron Lussier.
Dan, I love you. My life is richer through sharing it with you. My fears are calmed because you’re there to comfort me.
You balance me, and you make me better than I would be without you. Plus, you’re really, really cute.
I will always value your advice, even when it’s not what I want to hear.
I promise to always be open with you so that you will always know me.
I’ll try very hard not to walk away from an argument, but listen to what you’re saying, and to understand what you’re feeling.
I promise to laugh with you when we both want to scream.
I promise to do all I can to help make your dreams come true, and I promise that our life together will be full of adventure.
We met though we were 3,000 miles apart. Before we had even kissed, I loved you. I’ve loved you even more during our 17th year together than I did during our first, and I will love you even more next year
I’ve been with you in great times and bad, and I’ll be there for you in the future. I want to wake up to you every morning for the rest of our lives.
Thank you again for your contributions to us, whether by supporting us emotionally, attending our wedding, or contributing to our honeymoon. We really appreciate you, so much. We hope we have done honor to your contributions.