Since I have still been unable to write my personal story, here is the text of a speech my wife gave at law school today about how the passing of Prop 8 has personally affected her.

As I was jotting ideas down about what I was going to say today, the activist side of me kept coming out. I wanted to talk about what went wrong, what we should do now, and how we must stay motivated and strong. Then, I remembered my role here today is to share with you how the passing of prop 8 personally effected me, and that story looks very different.

First, I want to share with you how my wife and I fell in love and how we came to be where we are now as a married couple. Our love story may be typical, but it feels like a dream come true for me. So to me, it’s the best love story. Lindsey and I met through a work situation, and from the moment I saw her, I was taken. I emailed her to ask her on a date, which I phrased as dinner to “talk about work opportunities” because I’m a total chicken. It seemed like I held my breath for days waiting for her reply. With every new adventure and each new phase over the next three years, we realized more how special this relationship was. And of course, like good A types, we tested each other’s capacity for trust and commitment on many occasions. But, most importantly, we fell deeper and deeper in love. For those 3 years, Lindsey and I had used a lighthouse in Long Beach as a metaphor of our relationship. Don’t ask me how, but it worked for us. And on December 13, 2006, Lindsey took me to the lighthouse and proposed. It took all my will power not to say yes before she finished her question.

Now don’t get me wrong, our decision to get married was not an easy or light decision. We had spent many nights talking about all the aspects of a same-sex marriage including stigma, legalities, politics, families, our own desires, excitement, and fears. But, at the end of the day, when we put aside all the negatives from sources outside of ourselves, what we wanted was to marry each other. On July 14, 2007, Lindsey and I got married at our church in Long Beach, in front of 100 of our close friends and family. After the ceremony, we had a big reception where we celebrated with those who were proud of us. That was one of the happiest and most significant days of my life, and still is. Getting married gave me a new lease on life. It’s hard to explain, but as a couple, my relationship had never felt so secure, solid, or protected. I had never felt so secure, solid, and protected. I felt like our marriage left no questions to friends or strangers about the level of commitment Lindsey and I had. I felt a sense of responsibility to provide for and protect my new family, but I also felt a new and profound respect for all families out there no matter what form they took. I thought, and still think, “now I understand why people do this.” Although same-sex marriage was not legal at this time, the point is that the act of getting married made a huge difference for me.

Shortly after our wedding, we moved to New York City for my first year of law school. And shortly after that, on May 15, 2008, California legalized same-sex marriage. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t until after that day that it really dawned on me that, “in this country, gay people don’t have equal rights, but now in my home state of California—we did.” I guess before this court ruling, I just accepted life the way it was because it had always been that way. On our 1 year wedding anniversary, Lindsey and I flew out here to get our official paperwork from the Clerk’s office. When we first walked in and were filling out our license application on the computer, I have to admit I felt a little nervous like I was going to get in trouble. But then, we got called in by the clerk, and everyone signed all the paperwork. When we were finished, Lindsey and I must have had ear to ear grins because when the clerk looked up at us, she just had that look on her face like, “okay, well, we’re all done…” and then she asked if we wanted her to take our picture. We leaned in, with our license in front of us, as the county clerk of Orange County, CA took our picture. I walked out with my head held higher than I thought was even possible. You can take the feeling I described after my wedding and multiply it by 10. And that is a feeling I can’t ever imagine losing or having taken away.

A month later, Lindsey and I found ourselves on the tail end of yet another cross-country move. We were back in Long Beach for many reasons, but one was definitely to enjoy having a legal status that was equal to our neighbors. At this point, the Prop 8 campaigns were starting to heat up, and we all know how that went. Lindsey and I stayed active in the fight and were optimistic all the way up to the election. We walked to our polling station at 6:15 in the morning and waited to vote Yes for the first African America president and No on stripping another minority of their equal rights. That night, we wanted to be somewhere where we could see and feel the support and solidarity of other gay and lesbian people in our community. We went to a neighborhood bar with my laptop in tow. As President-elect Obama’s acceptance speech played on the TV in the background, my eyes were glued to my computer and my finger was continuously hitting refresh to see the poll numbers for prop 8 come in. By 11:00pm, the numbers did not look good, but there was still hope. The next morning, I awoke to the most shocking and reprehensible news that Prop 8 had passed.

Now, the legal consequences are a no brainer. You can see the difference on paper, even in the action packets you will pick up from us later. Some people think there are no real legal differences between a marriage and domestic partnership, but for a simple and average life like mine, the differences are very real. One example is when we moved back to California and had to get car insurance. The second the agent figured out we were legally married, our rate was reduced by half. I didn’t even know that benefit existed. I wonder how many more. I also worry about the future and whether I will find an employer who will offer me BOTH a good job and equal health benefits and leave of absence for my family. If the court upholds same-sex marriages before Nov 4, but lets prop 8 stand, then my marriage will always be under threat of challenge. I already feel like I to have to walk around with my marriage certificate in one back pocket with my lawyers business card in the other. So, from where I am standing, I see the legal differences, I feel the legal differences, and that means I am not equally protected under the law.

But for me, car insurance and health benefits are not the worst of it. I have seen the proponents of prop 8 shrug off the dignity and respect argument of civil rights. I am no constitutional law scholar, but I do know that it’s been established under equal protection in our US Constitution that “separate is inherently unequal.” I know racism is still prevalent, but the US Supreme Court and our society has since refused to codify “separate, but equal” because withholding that human dignity has very real and very scary tangible effects. Despite this, just last week, I heard an attorney for prop 8 state that the difference here is that gay and lesbian people are discriminated against less than racial minorities were at the time of Brown v. Board and Loving v. Virginia. I am going to skip over explaining the obvious that the degree of discrimination doesn’t matter. And all I can say to that prop 8 attorney and those who agree with her is that when I was 16 years old, I approached a person I liked, and they turned to me and told me they weren’t interested because they don’t date chinks. I was crushed. My cheeks turned red, my eyes filled with tears, and all the life and human dignity was immediately sucked out of me. I felt like less than a person. In the 11 years since, nothing has made me feel that “degree of discrimination” again…until the morning prop 8 passed.

When I saw the numbers, what it felt like was someone punched me in the stomach and knocked the wind right out of me. I was in disbelief. I did not go to class that day. In fact, I barely got out of bed. I slept in 20-30 minute intervals the entire day. Then the next day, I came to school for a couple morning classes dreading being there and seeing anyone. After, I went home and I cried. Generally, I consider myself a fairly pragmatic and objective person, but all reason had left me, and the only thing that remained in my head was, “why do people hate me, and even worse, why do people hate us”? The sad thing is, I’m not too sure that reason and logic would now bring me to a different conclusion. For a week or so after, I found myself unable to look at people, especially strangers in the eye. I would literally look down at the ground if I was passing someone on the sidewalk. Part of it was “maybe you voted yes, and how could you do that?” And as much as I hate to admit it, the other part was feeling ashamed and embarrassed, feeling like people might be thinking, “see, you were wrong, you are less than me,” or maybe they would actually say it to my face.

How else has Prop 8 affected me? I feel scared and worried. I am scared when Lindsey is out without me or when we are holding hands in public that people will take this revision to our constitution as a societal and governmental sanction for treating people differently. Although physical and verbal assaults are illegal expressions, we all know that when a person feels that they have the right to treat another group of people differently, it happens anyway. As every minority group knows, that is a heavy burden we must shoulder when no one should have to.

In closing, when people said that passing prop 8 would not affect the actual lives of gay and lesbian people, they were wrong. It affects my life, and it affects my wife’s life. And whether it affects your life personally or you have just been affected by the injustice, thank you for showing up today and standing up for equal rights.

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