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Friday, June 28, 2013


For anyone who doesn't know, the U.S. Supreme Court has been busy this week. Several of their rulings have implications, but the case most resonant for The Discreet Traveler is United States v. Windsor. Edith Windsor was married in Toronto, Ontario, and her marriage was recognized by the state she and her spouse lived in, but not by the United States.

The Court overturned a key section of the hateful and, they've finally confirmed, unconstitutional "Defense of Marriage" Act, clearing the way for Americans' marriages to be recognized by the federal government. For the first time, there is a way for U.S. citizens to live lawfully with their spouses in America, even if they are both gay and foreign!

I've been mulling over my reaction to this victory, which has taken so terribly long. "Couples forced into exile will be coming home soon," reads Immigration Equality's Web site. That is, couples who ever had the option to live together at all, before this decision. It is wonderful that Americans finally have this choice.

But am I going to go "home" from "exile"? The U.S.A. feels like a young love I broke up with thirteen years ago, who's come back to say she's changed. I'm happy to hear it; I wish all the best to her and whomever she lives with in the future. It would be weird to move back in together, though. Right?

My reaction has been to feel, about my native country, a way I haven't felt in a very long time. Proud. Oh, I know that everyone who hated gays on Tuesday still hated us Wednesday, when the Court ruled. And on a larger scale, I know that many things are still very wrong with the U.S.A. Given domestic surveillance and terrorist policies abroad*, there are ways we are still stuck in the Reagan era--or the Eisenhower.

But when I heard the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington, D.C. sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" outside the Supreme Court, I felt good about it. Not just because the singing was fantastic. I felt proud of a national anthem that isn't even my favorite patriotic song. Because, for the first time, I heard gay Americans singing "the land of the free" as if it applied to them. As if it was, not a reality that has been accomplished for everyone (see *), but an ideal worth aspiring to. The way an American should feel.

Tomorrow, I'll march with the first contingent of Democrats Abroad UK to participate in a Pride parade in London. The theme, funnily enough, is marriage, since England and Wales are kinda-sorta-maybe-soon getting same-sex marriage, which we've not been allowed before. Everyone will be talking about the changes in the States, of course, and we'll have American flags.

I’ve heard the American flag booed at Pride marches before, which I don’t agree with. But then, I’ve been booed for other reasons. Pride isn’t only a celebration; historically it is a protest for our rights. Rights that nobody was ever going to allow us to exercise without a fight. Every freedom we have now is only ours because we fought for it then.

This will be the first Pride I’ve marched in London since 1994. British gays were far from equal nineteen years ago. I was with the Stonewall Immigration Group, working to get any kind of discretion at all for the partners of British citizens. Actual legal recognition was beyond our dreams.

That same year, a telex (!) was sent to all Canadian immigration officers instructing them to recognize same-sex partners for immigration purposes. It took me six more years but I finally became an independent immigrant to Canada.

I’ve said in the past that homophobic U.S. laws have made the most practical difference in my adult life, but now I see that that is wrong. The overturning of those laws makes no practical difference in my life. What changed my life, and for the better, was the wheel turning positively in other countries. Canada led the way in 1994. Even ten years ago, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas, Canada had marriage. Real, coast-to-coast-to-coast, equal marriage, while the states were only just decriminalizing homosexuality. I’ve moved on, but I know how many Americans and their families feel, because I remember feeling it.

So this week, as I do every year, I’ll celebrate three holidays. My High Holy Days. Today is the anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion, so of course it is Pride. And the Fourth of July has special resonance this year, as Americans celebrate their independence.

In between is Canada Day. Which I, as a Canadian, celebrate too. Because Canada became my home and showed us a way, when there was no way.

Merci, Canada, for leading the way.


Bob Haisman said...

J.E.-- I guess I didn't realize you were posting on the Discreet Traveler already!! So I read a bunch of them all in a row! I think they are really good! This was a great week and I loved your reaction to DOMA -- I think the euphoria is clearing and the reality is setting in that we are going to have to battle state by state! Perhaps we will have another SCOTUS ruling that will be wider precedent.... we will see!!

Right now we are going to put our heads down and move ahead and focus on marriage equality in Illinois!!!

This week I felt proud of my country again!!


J. E. Knowles said...

Thanks UB! So did I.