the rally amid the tears

Hi, are you still there? We watched you on my computer today. You guys were great and we were crying.
— Barbara Culgin (via AIM)

Hey! I know those two guys crying on C-SPAN! Good job, guys! xoxo Steve
— Steve Dorato

Hey, I got to watch! Yay! Y’all look great! Stop crying on live national TV! 😉
Glenn Crocker

Well, the rally has come and gone. The riders made it through (emotionally) intact. And from my point of view, it was a success.

Sure, there wasn’t nearly the turn-out we expected. Rather than 30,000 people, we got 300. But what is important to remember is that the people in this movement are quiet, boring, stay-at-home folk. They have kids and are often very, very tired. And this fight for civil rights is very young.

Dan and I started the day by ferrying the musicians Tuck and Patty to the rally site in Francis, our VW bus. The stage was still being constructed, however, and the sound system wasn’t even close to being ready for sound check. We brought T&P back to the hotel and then hung around in our rooms for another hour, during which I finished a previous day’s blog entry.

At around 10:30 we went back over to the rally site. The riders were all milling around behind the stage. Soon it was 11 a.m., and we all climbed up the steps onto the stage and sang “What the World Needs Now is Love Sweet Love” badly. After we’d all climbed down from the stage again, the speeches started. I believe that there were around 50 speakers. I know that every rider spoke, and there are 44 of us.

Every speaker had between 1 and 10 minutes to speak. If you went over, someone with an orange flag would start waving it with greater and greater urgency. We were told beforehand that our mikes would be cut if we didn’t stop talking.

There were lots of speeches, many of them very inspirational. Andy Thayer of Don’t Amend went over his time, and John started waving the orange flag. Andy continued, and the flag waved more urgently. Andy went on, and the John jumped up and down, waving urgently. And Andy continued.

Many of the riders had practiced their speeches over and over on the bus, getting each down to exactly one minute long. This had the unfortunate effect of taking away a lot of the extreme emotion people showed when talking on the road. Eve Lubalin, the PFLAG mom, didn’t cry. Joe and Frank, who always cry, didn’t cry. Bev spoke about how much she wanted to be part of the lives of her children, and didn’t cry, though she broke down in tears as she left the stage.

Robin Tyler got up and spoke some truths that no one else had the balls to say. She produced the 1979, 1987, and 1993 Marches on Washington for Gay Rights. She spoke out about the failure of other gay organizations to promote the rally. I am especially annoyed at HRC, who produced the 2000 March on Washington despite many telling them that the timing was inappropriate. Dan and I attended. They sent no one to speak at our rally.

Then it was time for Dan and I to speak. Dan told everyone how we had been married just over two weeks previously, and then he re-read his vows to me. His voice shook with emotion, and as he reach the end “I love you so much, Ron Lussier”, he broke down in tears and fell into my arms. We were both crying.

And all of the clever, moving things I had intended to say were completely gone from my mind. I don’t work from a script, but it usually comes out well. This time it didn’t. I spoke a little about how love affects everyone, no matter what the gender of the couple in love. I spoke about how everyone at our wedding was laughing and crying. I told folks about my 83-year-old grandmother, who after the wedding said it was a joke that people wanted to keep us from marrying. And then I saw John. He was waving a flag, jumping up and down. And my mind, which was in ‘babbling mode’, went to ’empty’.

I looked to Dan, and he closed our speech. But I wanted to say something else, which went something like this:

“I want to tell everyone out there that when you get married the people at your wedding will be transformed. We never develop defenses against true love. That’s why we cry at weddings. When two people marry one another, their love spills out and fills every one in the room with joy. So don’t be afraid to invite your families and your friends. Allow them to share in your love, and they will know that love is love. And this discrimination against us will fall.”

I’m not sure it came out that good, but that’s what I wanted to say.

Chrissy Gephardt showed up at the last minute and told everyone to vote for Kerry and against Bush. She was so passionate that Davina followed her at the Podium and thanked her for speaking at the non-partisan National Rally for Marriage Equality. Standing next to me, Ms. Gephardt winced and said to me “I guess I overdid it.” I whispered back “You just said what everyone else is thinking. Thanks for that.” Then I made room for her to stand in front of Dan and I.

The rally ended with all of us dancing in front of the stage, in couples and in groups. We’d done something amazing. We are the vanguard of a major civil rights movement that will affect millions of loving Americans. We’re love warriors.

Dan and I spoke for three months via email, phone, and written letter before we actually met on October 11, 1987. He was living in Los Angeles, and I was in Nashua, New Hampshire.

17 years ago today, Dan met me at Washington National airport. I’d flown down on Eastern Airlines, the first time I’d ever flown. As I babbled to him about how amazing clouds were from the top, we walked to his hotel room. His small room was filled with about a dozen guys and as many sleeping bags. They all checked me out and (I think) whispered approving asides to Dan. And then we headed to dinner.

I’d never eaten sushi, and Dan was going to introduce me. As we walked towards the restaurant, there was a lull in the conversation. Desperate to fill it, I said “So, do you want to sleep with me tonight?”

Oh my god, how desperate could I sound? I felt like whacking myself in the forehead repeatedly. But luckily Dan just chuckled and said “Okay!” And then we went on to have what seemed like the longest sushi dinner in history. Afterwards, we practically ran back to my hotel.

Tonight we went back to Sushi Taro. I was astonished that it was still around, and I learned that it had recently celebrated its 18th year in business. Everyone there congratulated us on our anniversary, and our waitress told us that we gave her hope for finding someone special. Oh, and the food was magnificent. Dan and I ate sashimi and yakitori (items grilled on bamboo skewers.) We drank sake. And we kept looking at one another and saying “I can’t believe it’s been 17 years.”

I love you so much, Dan Greening. More than ever.

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