Public Comment

Forced to Marry?

By Robert Quintana Hopkins
Wednesday November 25, 2009 - 08:56:00 AM

Celebrating my first wedding anniversary on Nov. 10, while mourning the passage of the referendum in Maine, I continue to wonder whether Proposition 8, the ban against same sex marriage in California, created more marriages than it prevented.   

My husband and I debated marriage in 2004. My urgency and his closeted reluctance remained our dilemma in 2008. “With love, what difference does a piece of paper make?” he asked. Resolving the anger I anticipated feeling if faced with the reality that I did not enjoy full civil rights, the same struggle of second-class citizenship endured by both my African- American and Mexican-American ancestors, seemed toxically unbearable. “Stop allowing politics to interfere with our relationship,” he asserted. Lucky to be in a 10-year relationship with the person I love, I questioned why I shouldn’t enjoy the recognition, through marriage, of a loving committed relationship, if I choose? Our conflict exposed our similarity to other couples, yet also identified our circumstance as uniquely different. We agreed to marry. Unexpectedly, our relationship has grown better and deeper.  

Newton’s Third Law posits that what we resist, persists, or our actions of resistance create an equal opposing force. If we had our choice, we would have delayed marriage, preferring to plan, save and host a more inclusive celebration. Instead, we accepted the earliest appointment available and married at City Hall with my sister and cousin as witnesses. The short window of opportunity to enjoy this basic civil right, forced us to make a difficult decision—marry legally while we could, or settle for domestic partnership later. We chose marriage. It is estimated that more than eleven thousand other couples made the same decision. Research reveals that more gay couples married in the first three months that gay marriage was legal in California, a state that resisted the legalization of same sex marriage, than were married the first four years it was legal in Massachusetts, a state where gay marriage remains legal.  

This experience has taught me two lessons. Like Newton, I know what we resist responds with equal force, thus I do not oppose homophobia or conservatism. Instead, I support human rights, diversity, equality and freedom of choice. Furthermore, like white abolitionists who fought to end slavery although they did not benefit personally from its demise, the struggle for civil rights does not end even though I have rights. With the passage of Proposition 8, thousands of men and women in same gender relationships lack access to a fundamental right many others enjoy. Everyone should be outraged.  

Newton’s Law demands that those of us privileged with the right to marry, both straight and gay, respond to the concerted resistance to same-sex marriage with equal or stronger resolve to support equality for all people. Equality and human rights ought to be a collective goal, irrespective of race, gender, sexual orientation or ethnicity. This is nothing new. History reveals that people of all colors work together to progress toward racial equality. Men and women continue to collaborate to provide gender equity. Similarly, heterosexuals, gays and lesbians must work together to successfully re-define gays as fully human. When we are recognized as human, we marry because we want to, not because waiting means the opportunity will be denied a week later.  


Robert Quintana Hopkins is a Berkeley resident.