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April 20th, 2005 Byron Beck | Queer Window
 

"Void Ab Initio," My Ass

     
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The first thing I did last Thursday when I heard the Oregon's Supreme Court ruling in Li v. State of Oregon was to email Rosie O'Donnell:

Hey Ro,

Breaking news...Oregon's Supreme Court just invalidated over 3,000 marriages. It sucks...REALLY SUCKS...and makes me wonder if it isn't time we took this battle to the streets instead of the courts. What do you think?

best, byron

I thought a former talk-show host might have some insight on this, the worst possible scenario for this court decision. I admit I was just reaching out, grabbing at air, and in my culture, Rosie's as close to Martin Luther Queen as we get.

The previous night, before the decision was handed down, my partner, Juan, and I drove to Salem to join a candlelight vigil on the steps of the Oregon Supreme Court. Under ominous clouds that I hoped might hold silver linings, about 60 people-young and old, married and unmarried, gay and straight-gathered around Basic Rights Oregon's executive director, Roey Thorpe.

I had never seen Thorpe appear so anxious and distracted as she did that rain-soaked night. She was her always-eloquent self, saying stuff like, "No matter what the decision, good or bad, we are all in this together." But I also saw, for the first time, a deep sadness.

Afterward, when I asked what was going on, Thorpe said she was concerned about how the decision would affect all Oregonians, but she was also worried about how it would affect her and her partner, Missy, who were married last year. I wanted to give her a hug and tell her it was all going to be OK.

But I couldn't do that. All I could do was to start thinking (OK, panicking) about what was next for queers. Here in Oregon, there's Martinez v. Kulongoski, the legal challenge of Measure 36 that Juan and I are involved in, which could take years to make it through the courts. And, in a weird twist of fate, last week Gov. Ted introduced a bill into the Oregon Senate-at the request of BRO-that sets up a legal classification of civil unions for same-sex couples. I'm sure there will be more court cases, but I'm too tired and hurt to wait for this issue to be settled inside the halls of justice.

When I impulsively asked Rosie if it was time to take our fight to the streets, I wasn't advocating strapping explosives to 15-year-old lesbians on national TV. All I was really asking was what's next.

Do we throw a giant block party, on blocks all across the nation? Do we march first on Salem and then Washington, D.C.? I'm not sure. But I do know one thing: This is a national fight, as important as the battle for AIDS funding, and it's going to require us to get off our America's Next Top Model-watching asses. Get out of our comfort zones, that is, and start preaching to church types who think they have our best interests at heart by denying us the right to marry. And we'll have to recruit our straight allies to step up, too.

Now that the court has spoken, it's our turn to speak out and give this Oregon fight a makeover as a national debate. Let's make sure we are heard, loud and queer.

 
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