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Gay Marriage Legalized in California

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Gay Marriage Legalized in California

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Gay Marriage Legalized in California

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FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

From NPR News, this is News & Notes. I'm Farai Chideya. It's official. Same sex couples in California can now legally get hitched. Last week, the California Supreme Court struck down a ban on gay marriage. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vows to uphold the ruling and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa says he'll even officiate at gay weddings. Massachusetts is the only other state that allows gay couples to wed. For a personal perspective, I'm joined by writer Terrence Heath. He's an online producer and blogger at Campaign for America's Future. He also writes a personal blog called "The Republic of T," where he writes, among other things, about being a gay father of two sons. Terrence, welcome back to the show.

Mr. TERRENCE HEATH (Blogger, "The Republic of T"): Thanks for having me.

CHIDEYA: So gay marriage isn't legal in Maryland, where you live. You're in a long-term partnership. You've got children.

Mr. HEATH: Right.

CHIDEYA: Would you hop on a plane to California to get married?

Mr. HEATH: I would, except that my partner and I talked about it and the truth is we could get married in California, but as soon as we left California air space, we wouldn't be married anymore.

CHIDEYA: That's a real difference from heterosexual couples, where marriages are recognized across state lines.

Mr. HEATH: Not just across state lines, across international lines. My husband's parents were married in communist Poland decades ago and they emigrated to the U.S., and they were just as married here as they were there.

CHIDEYA: You call him your husband.

Mr. HEATH: Yes.

CHIDEYA: Do you wish that you had the same rights as when other people talk about their husband?

Mr. HEATH: Yes, because I don't know. I can't be sure what is going to happen when I will know whether or not my legal rights are recognized when I need them. And we have legal documents. We have wills. We have advanced directives. We have medical power of attorney that gives us about three of the 1,000-plus benefits and protections that are afforded married couples. And there's no guarantee that those documents will be recognized.

CHIDEYA: All right. Let's move to politics for a second. Are you afraid that by granting legal marriage to gay and lesbian couples in California, the courts could actually provoke a backlash from people in politics or religion or everyday folks who disagree with the ruling?

Mr. HEATH: I think that's a possibility, but that was a possibility with Brown vs. Board of Education. As a matter of fact, this ruling kind of comes sandwiched in between the passing of one woman who was - Mildred Loving, who was part of the Supreme Court case Loving vs. Virginia, which struck down bans on interracial marriage, and the passing of the very last plaintiff in Brown vs. Board of Education. There were backlashes, potential backlashes, for both of those, but it didn't mean that it wasn't the right thing to do. There will always, always be a backlash when you stand up for your rights. That's something that I know as a gay man. That's something I know as a black man.

CHIDEYA: When you think about the African-American community of gays and lesbians, we've talked to some folks on our show who say, you know what, gay marriage as a, for example, as a black lesbian - we've had on Jasmyne Cannick who said this. And she said as a black same-gender loving person, you know, gay marriage is not at the very top of my list of things I want to deal with. You know, I want to deal with, you know, sexism and homophobia and you know, racism and maybe, for her, gay marriage is not at the top of the list. Where does it rank for you?

Mr. HEATH: Well, as a father with two sons and a husband and having a family that I want to protect as much as I can, it's very important to me. There were two people, a black lesbian couple, who were plaintiffs in the marriage case here in Maryland, Mikki Mozelle and Lisa Kebreau. And they did the same thing that we did, getting the legal documents that they needed to protect their family. And it cost them about 6,000 dollars in legal fees. Now, where I live in Montgomery County, Maryland, it costs 55 dollars to get a marriage license and you wait about three days.

CHIDEYA: Now in a few minutes we're going to hear from Bishop Harry Jackson. He doesn't favor gay marriage. Of course, his church is just one of many African-American churches. How do you think that this issue, not just marriage but in general acceptance of gay families, is playing out in black faith communities in different parts of the country?

Mr. HEATH: Well, if I'm honest, I'd have to say not as well as I would hope or as I would like. But little by little, because we are a part of African-American communities across the country, we are sisters and brothers and mothers and fathers, we teach your children, we cut your hair, your kids go to school with our kids. Little by little, it changes. It's changing.

And I've seen it in my own family that members of my own family were initially not accepting of my relationship. But my mother actually said to me, and this was a surprise because she was not necessarily celebrating five years ago when we became parents. But when we adopted our youngest son, she actually said to me, I wish you both the best of luck raising them because kids need loving parents and good homes. And she meant it. And little by little, as we are able to come out and be who we are, I think that's changing. We, honestly, face a lot of hostility, though, in our own communities, and that makes it harder.

CHIDEYA: Well, Terrence, thanks for joining us again.

Mr. HEATH: Thank you for having me.

CHIDEYA: Writer Terrence Heath is an online producer and blogger at Campaign for America's Future. His personal blog is "The Republic of T," where he writes about his experiences of being a gay father. He was at our headquarters in Washington, D.C.

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