MADELEINE BRAND, host:
From the studios of NPR West, this is Day to Day. I'm Madeleine Brand.
ALEX COHEN, host:
And I'm Alex Cohen. Coming up, conservatives who like an unlikely candidate. Meet the Obamacons.
BRAND: But first gay marriage. Next week, same-sex couples will begin getting married here in California. The State Supreme Court has found that a ban on such unions is unconstitutional.
COHEN: Hundreds of couples are planning to tie the knot right away. County clerks can start issuing marriage licenses at 5:01 p.m. on Monday.
BRAND: Jason Lyon and Tim Hartley will be among the couples literally lining up to get married next week. And it's not their first time. They got married four years ago in San Francisco, when Mayor Gavin Newsom there invited same-sex couples to get married. Soon after that, though, the California Supreme Court nullified their marriage. So, Jason and Tim are going to go for it again on Tuesday. Hi, you guys.
Mr. TIM HARTLEY (Resident, Silver Lake, California): Hey.
Mr. JASON LYON (Resident, Silver Lake, California): Hello.
BRAND: So, take two. Is it kind of, you know, we've been there, done that, a little ho-hum? Or are you excited?
Mr. HARTLEY: Totally excited. We're thrilled. You know, with the San Francisco wedding, we knew that the legality was going to be up in the air, and you know, this time, we know that it's definitely legal and we're thrilled.
BRAND: So, Jason, I understand that you are actually going to stick around after you and Tim get married.
Mr. LYON: I am, to officiate other ceremonies. It's, like, such an honor to be able to hand that to other couples.
BRAND: So, you've been deputized to perform marriages.
Mr. LYON: I have, yeah. I even get a robe.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. HARTLEY: You know, up in San Francisco, four years ago, that was really, really moving to see the same situation, people who came out and volunteered their time to marry people. So, I'm glad he's doing it.
BRAND: What about this time around? Is it moving in the same way? Or are you feeling something different?
Mr. LYON: I think we were surprised to be moved the last time. We got up there and started to say our vows, and then I kind of burst into tears. And we're - neither of us are particularly all that given to the shows of emotion. But you know, it's a thing I never thought would happen in my lifetime.
Mr. HARTLEY: And you know, we've been together for almost nine years, and as any, probably, married couple knows, you know, any activity outside of the house is reason for celebrations sometimes.
BRAND: Jason Lyon and Tim Hartley getting married on Tuesday in West Hollywood. Thank you both very much.
Mr. HARTLEY: Thank you.
Mr. LYON: Thank you.
COHEN: Lorie and Annemary Franks also got married during the brief run of San Francisco's same-sex weddings in 2004. Both are pediatricians. They have three daughters. The family lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, and when they married last time, Laurie says, it was a hasty affair.
Dr. LORIE FRANKS (Pediatrician, Hercules, California): Nobody knew it was happening until the day it happened. So, you know, you hurried down to City Hall to get married. We didn't have any planning or anything. So, this is fun. This is fun to be able to plan, and for our daughters to pick out dresses to wear, and all the fun things that go with that. As my mother-in-law says, you can never marry the same person too many times.
(Soundbite of laughter)
COHEN: You mentioned your girls were out shopping for dresses. Are they excited about this, too?
Dr. FRANKS: They are beyond excited, they're so happy. They - you know, obviously growing up with two moms, and so they are aware about the issues in our community, and they are just are thrilled that, you know, finally they're getting some validity, and you know, it's our society saying that they're family matters, and to them that means they matter. So, they're thrilled.
COHEN: You and Annemary are going to wake up the day after your ceremony, and I'm sure a lot of things are going to be exactly the same as they've always been for a long time. But for the two of you, do you think anything will feel different being officially wife and wife?
Dr. FRANKS: Yeah, I think it will. Not being able to marry the person that you love and the person you've been with for 18 years, it's been kind of deflating, you know? And this is really something that makes us feel like we're just like everybody else.
COHEN: What will you two be wearing?
Dr. FRANKS: Well, we're not wearing what our girls wanted us to wear.
(Soundbite of laughter)
COHEN: What do they want you to wear?
Dr. FRANKS: They want us to wear pink.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Dr. FRANKS: I believe we're just going to wear some sort of nice pant suits, nothing too out of the ordinary.
COHEN: Lorie Franks of Hercules, California, will be getting married, again, to her partner Annemary Franks. Thanks so much, Lorie.
Dr. FRANKS: Thank you.
BRAND: Dennis Mangers and Michael Sestak met each other 17 years ago through the Gay Men's Chorus in Sacramento. They've been together ever since. Dennis is a former California assemblyman, Michael is a lighting designer, and this won't be their first wedding either.
COHEN: When Dennis and Michael get hitched on Tuesday, it will be their third time doing so. They join us now. Dennis, how is this time different from the last two times that you guys got married?
Mr. DENNIS MANGERS (President, Sacramento Office, California Cable & Telecommunications Agency) : This is a really kind of joyous and liberating occasion. In this case, I had the opportunity to sit in for the oral arguments of the Supreme Court, and got to witness the drama of this enormous decision. And now to be getting married, to actualize that decision, it's just - it's going to be deeply meaningful.
BRAND: Michael, I hear you've got quite the guest list. Who's going to be coming to your ceremony?
Mr. MICHAEL SESTAK (Owner, Sestak Lighting Design): We have many legislators, we have a few constitutional officers, fairly well placed people that are there to help support us and yet celebrate in our ceremony.
BRAND: Dennis, where is this going to be held and who is marrying you?
Mr. MANGERS: The ceremony is going to held in the auditorium of the secretary of state, right near the capital in Sacramento ,and our celebrant is going to be Senator Sheila Kuehl of Santa Monica, who is the first openly gay elected member of our legislator. It suggests that there is a changing mood here in which the whole concept of same-gender marriages is increasingly more acceptable to the people of California.
COHEN: You guys have just a few days left. Any last minute details that need tending to?
Mr. MANGERS: We've got printing to do for the programs, we've got to get the cake done, but most of all, Mike keeps reminding me that as symbolic as this seems to us, we have to remember the reason we're doing this is because we're deeply in love with one another.
BRAND: Dennis Mangers and Michael Sestak are tying the knot for the third time. Thank you.
Mr. MANGERS: Well, thank you very much.
Mr. SESTAK: Thank you, Alex. Appreciate it.
BRAND: People who oppose same-sex marriage are working to pass an amendment to the California constitution that would ban gay marriage. It would be on the ballot in November. One of the people leading that effort is Pastor Chris Clark of East Clairemont Southern Baptist Church in San Diego. How would the marriages that begin next week, how will they affect your campaign?
Pastor CHRIS CLARK (East Clairemont Southern Baptist Church): We are more in favor of traditional marriage and preserving the status quo than we really are against anything else. We're so much in favor of traditional marriage that we want to see and make sure that it's protected in our culture, and the only way we can see that happening is through a constitutional amendment. So, as far as what's going to take place next week and over the next several months, we're really not sure exactly what effect that's going to have, positive or negative.
BRAND: And are your congregants, are they saying, OK, I'm going to go pound the pavement and make sure people get out and vote against this in November?
Pastor CLARK: I think there's some of them that are ready to go. They're ready to speak to their neighbors and their friends about this. In fact, we have 1.1 million signatures out of the state of California that feels strongly enough about it.
BRAND: What are you doing to pass this amendment?
Pastor CLARK: We're speaking with other pastors, we are praying together with these pastors, and we are working together to energize the people in our pews to preserve what we have as the status quo, which is the definition of marriage being between one man and one woman.
BRAND: You, I understand, are preaching on this topic on Sunday?
Pastor CLARK: My message is going to be primarily geared around Father's Day and what the standard is for a dad, and one of the things that we find is that a dad is to be a strong husband. He is a role model for his children. When we talk about the context of a family, we're talking about children, we're talking about a mother and we're talking about a father. That definition is at stake. It's at risk right now of being disowned and disdained in our culture.
BRAND: Pastor Chris Clark, thank you very much.
CLARK: Well, thank you so much for having me.
BRAND: Chris Clark is senior pastor of East Claremont Southern Baptist Church in San Diego, California.
COHEN: Marriage has been the focal point of the gay rights movement for the past several years, but why marriage? Why not tackle discrimination in the workplace? Why not fight for the right to be with your loved one in the hospital? Why not any issue that's less fraught with religious and emotional overtones?
To help us answer that question, we're joined now by George Chauncey. He teaches American history at Yale University, and he's also written a book called "Why Marriage? The History Shaping Today's Debate over Gay Equality." Welcome to the program, Professor Chauncey, and let's cut to the chase. Why marriage?
Dr. GEORGE CHAUNCEY (American History, Yale University; Author, "Why Marriage? The History Shaping Today's Debate over Gay Equality"): Granting people the right to marriage has been a central symbol of their equality and full citizenship. So, for instance, slaves were denied the right to marry, and after emancipation, celebrating and officiating their marriages was one of the most important expressions of their new freedom.
And at the same time, a lot of states then passed laws prohibiting blacks from marrying whites, which was a way of re-symbolizing their continued inequality. Nazis banned Jews from marrying non-Jews, and it was really in response to those sorts of laws that, in 1948 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the U.N. declared the right to marry and the right to choose one's partner in marriage as a fundamental human right. It's historically been an incredibly powerful marker for both sides in the debate of full gay equality.
COHEN: So this decision here in California to make same-sex marriages legal. how big of a milestone is this?
Dr. CHAUNCEY: It's compelling that it's California, since in 1948, 60 years ago, California's State Supreme Court became the first state court to return its state's ban on interracial marriages. And in some ways, the reasoning used in both decisions was similar. This year, California voters face a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Thirty years ago, in 1978, they voted on an initiative, the Briggs initiative, that would have banned or would have required schools to fire gay teachers or any teacher, gay or straight, who expressed tolerance for homosexuality.
And 30 years ago, having gay teachers seemed a little weird, even though California voters did turn down that referendum. Twenty years ago, the Christian right mobilized huge boycott campaigns against TV sitcoms that had gay characters, and a lot of people thought that was kind of weird. Well, no one really thinks having gay characters in a sitcom is a weird thing today, and I think for those of us in our 50s and older, when we were young, it was just unthinkable that gay people could get married.
But when I talk with my students today, even the most conservative of them on foreign policy issues or economic issues just think that it's unthinkable that anyone would oppose gay marriage. They've just grown up in such a radically different society that they take it for granted that their gay friend should have the same rights that they do.
COHEN: As we heard earlier in the program, there are a lot of homosexuals who are thrilled about this moment in history, but are there other gays and lesbians who feel, maybe, this particular battle wasn't the one to make the top of the list. So there were other issues that might have been better to take on?
Dr. CHAUNCEY: Some people have felt it's the wrong priority. Some people have felt that they don't want to be a part of the institution of marriage. But it's not the only issue that's in play right now.
COHEN: Well, what are some of the big issues that you see being on the frontiers and in the future of the gay rights movement?
Dr. CHAUNCEY: Everything from the harassment of openly gay students in high schools, to the rights of transgendered people, to the rights of people of HIV and AIDS. I think that we'll also see a continuation of the great debate that's been taking place in the churches for the last 20 years. That will be probably a central element of the debate in the next years.
COHEN: George Chauncey is author of the book "Why Marriage?" He teaches history at Yale University. Thank you.
Dr. CHAUNCEY: Thank you.
(Soundbite of music)
BRAND: Stay with us on Day to Day from NPR News.