Monday, February 23, 2009

I'm Late, I'm Late, For a Very Important Date

Not really. Just late in posting a chapter due to the continued illness of the fam'. But here it is, another chapter of The Brides of March: Memoir of a Same-Sex Marriage

I Have a Dream

While Jannine was in India, Anna was in the third grade play.

At our school, the third grade play is a combination of history, social studies, and music written by a visiting artist paid with the money earned by “Run For the Arts,” a program in which all the children in the school run around the block, getting pledges based on how many laps they run, or in some cases, nice tidy lump sums. There tend to be a few skinned knees, but it works. Without it there is no arts program, and as the whole country learned in 2003, thanks to “Doonesbury,” we barely have an education budget in Oregon, and it just keeps getting smaller…

But that’s another story.

In Anna’s class, the kids were studying Portland history and landmarks (bridges, stumps, shipbuilding), and the social changes that have occurred since the city was founded. As I watched the third grade play, Graeme safely home with Marty and Terri, and Duncan by my side, I thought to myself, “I wonder…”

Because besides putting on lively skits with songs about lazy pioneer men (thus the Portland moniker “Stumptown,” they cut down the trees, but left the stumps), and one on women’s suffrage that brought down the house, the kids did a skit about the Japanese internment during World War Two, and one on the Vietnam War. The former focusing on the tragedy of the Japanese who lost their livelihoods, homes, and families when they were taken from the West Coast and interned inland, the latter a re-enacted protest march that included a small-scale version of the Vietnam War Memorial onstage.

Kids love to dress as hippies.

I wondered: will our kids go to plays like these as the parents of elementary students, and one of the skits show two men or two women getting married? Will school children studying American history cover the Gay Rights Movement, specifically the decade in which equal rights were finally won with the right to marry?

I think it’s possible.

Massachusetts was marrying same-sex couples at that moment, despite great efforts to derail that decision. Multnomah County had stopped issuing marriage licenses, but it had taken the issue to the legislators, who were to decide how to reconcile state statutes (which defined marriage as between a man and a woman), with the Oregon constitution, which only limited marriage to adults over the age of seventeen, and specifically demands the equality of all Oregonians.

Our presidential candidates in the upcoming election were actually discussing same-sex marriage and civil unions in polite terms, and weren’t avoiding it like the plague, for fear of being tainted by the issue.

The kids in the third grade play doing a falsetto version of “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” that made the audience simultaneously wince, smile, and tear up, may be hard pressed to understand the fuss about same-sex marriage when they reach voting age in ten years’ time. The millions of children of gays and lesbians playing soccer, and baseball, and Barbie with the millions of children of straight families, are more likely to favor gay marriage as they grow up, having witnessed firsthand that same-sex couples are no big deal and just as boring as any other parents.

As I applauded at the end of Anna’s play, I thought of a future in which ten and eleven year-old kids will dress in drag for the third grade play, to mark the Stonewall riots at the beginning of the gay rights movement, much like Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King, Jr. symbolize the civil rights movement. I imagined a ten year-old girl in a surplice standing in front of two ten year-old boys or girls, with a big map of Multnomah County in the background, the scene (complete with vows, an exchange of rings, and an air kiss) greeted by a combination of applause and silence, just as the Vietnam War protest skit was received. It will be part of America’s history. I have a dream.

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