Getting married has been a goal for long-time partners Robin Tyler and Diane Olson for each of the past six Valentine’s Days, and this year will be no different.
They’ll be turned away, of course, since their home state of California doesn’t allow same-sex marriages, but Tyler hardly seems heartbroken by that inevitability.
“It’s all about raising awareness,” says the Los Angeles-based activist, comedienne and producer.
Similar demonstrations will be happening all over California tomorrow, from Alameda County to Yolo County, according to Marriage Equality USA, all in the hopes of raising awareness about the six cases challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
One of those cases was brought by Tyler and Olsen, while another was brought by fellow Angelenos Reverend Troy Perry and Phillip De Blieck (the rest of the cases were brought by couples from San Francisco).
Perry is responsible for starting the “tradition” that Tyler, Olsen and thousands of other gay and lesbian couples have participated in over the past six years.
“We started doing it because we wanted the right to marry,” says Perry, who married De Blieck in Canada shortly before the first lawsuit was filed four years ago.
“We’re thrilled to be where we are now – in court,” he adds.
“I’ve been fighting for this since I performed my first same-sex marriage in January 1969.
“In 1970, a lesbian couple I married filed suit to have their marriage recognised,” Perry says.
“We were laughed out of the court.”
Perry, De Blieck and the other couples involved in the California case don’t expect to hear laughter when the state Supreme Court hears oral arguments on March 4th, though Tyler doesn’t expect the experience to go off without a hitch, either.
“I know the right-wing is going to get up there and say what they said about interracial marriage in 1948, that God doesn’t want it that way,” she says.
“The last time they talked about this, they said, ‘If you let same-gender couples marry, what’s next? People marrying animals?’
“To that I say: Three years ago the big love story for gay couples was Brokeback Mountain, while the big love story for heterosexual couples was King Kong.“
Tyler also expects to hear someone say, “You have civil unions, they’re the same thing.”
Her response: “That’s like telling African Americans [before desegregation], ‘You have your water fountains, they’re the same thing.’
“Separate is not equal,” she adds.
“Even if we have all the same rights as married heterosexual couples, it’s not the same if the word isn’t the same. We shouldn’t have to be second-class citizens.”
Tyler, like Perry, understands how important this case is not only for her and Olsen, but for gay and lesbian couples across the country.
That said, Tyler is prepared for the possibility that the California Supreme Court may not decide in her favour.
After hearing oral arguments on March 4th, the court has 90 days to make its ruling.
“We’ve been fighting this battle for many decades,” she says. “It’s just one more battle in a war we’re winning.
“Actually, we’ve already won, regardless of what happens on the Supreme Court level, because 65 percent of people under the age of 24 now think gay and lesbian couples should have the right to marry. This will not be an issue for future generations.”