Soapbox: Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo get the last word
If you're like us, by now you’ve come to think of Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo as our community husbands. Since becoming co-plaintiffs in Hollingsworth v. Perry (aka the Prop 8 lawsuit) more than four years ago, this duo has fought and testified tirelessly in the name of equality. We honored them as Leading Men in 2010, and we couldn’t be more proud to have them back this year as our Leading Men Soapbox speakers! How has life changed since the Supreme Court’s historic rulings this past June? This legally wed duo is getting honest on love, marriage and the march will still have toward full equality.
“June is, after all, the month for weddings.” This was a statement made by Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker in June of 2010, referring to the delay from the end of our court proceedings, in January, to the closing arguments in June. Those words, said in jest, turned out to be a harbinger of things to come.
Three years later, Judge Walker’s landmark ruling striking down Proposition 8 as unconstitutional is the law of the Golden State and thousands of gay and lesbian couples are flocking to be married and recognized by their state and their federal government (Thank you, Edie!) as EQUAL. On June 28, we were the first couple in Los Angeles to get married, two days after the United States Supreme Court held that our opponents did not have the legal standing to defend Prop 8 in the appeals court. No one really knew how long we would have to wait to get married after the Supreme Court decision. We were told anywhere from 24 hours to 25 days.
Well, it turned out to be 48 hours. Imagine those phone calls to the family saying, “By the way, we’re getting married in a couple of hours. Sorry you can’t be there.” It was very important for us to get married as soon as it was legal. We had been part of this lawsuit for more than four years. We had waited long enough.
Our longtime supporter and outgoing Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, offered to marry us at City Hall. He was on his farewell tour of the city, and it was literally his last day in office. We also received a phone call from Rachel Maddow’s producer asking to televise the wedding during the show. So now we could at least tell our family and friends to “tune in” to our wedding.
We were married at 6:08 p.m. on Friday, June 28, live on The Rachel Maddow Show. Our four-year journey to the altar was capped off in a whopping six minutes. With two words we became EQUAL. And our lives forever changed.
What did saying “I do” mean? You have heard about the rights…more than 1,100 of them, which are extremely important to gay and lesbian couples. But you know what we were most excited about? The access to the language. We couldn’t wait to say the words “married” and “husband.” These words have true meaning. They are recognized globally. People know what they mean. Our old nicknames for each other have changed; it’s now “husband” this and “husband” that. We can’t wait to introduce each other as “husband,” sometimes even to people who already know us because we just want to say the word.
Now, as we write this piece on our one-month anniversary, we can unequivocally say that being married feels different. Look, after more than 12 years together, the day-to-day hasn’t changed much—but the feelings have. The love is deeper. The level of commitment is stronger. Our relationship is truly one bond now. We walk taller. We feel prouder. We feel EQUAL.
Of course the battle may have been won, but the war is not over. The sun still rises every morning on an unequal country. There are still 37 states that do not recognize the fundamental right to marry for gays and lesbians. There are still more than 20 states where you can be fired for being LGBT. As HRC president Chad Griffin said, “When you have momentum on your side, you don’t slow down, you double down.” Our community has experienced a lot of success of late. We have to continue to engage and educate at all levels. We need to be out there telling our stories, as it’s these very stories that have helped to propel us forward and change hearts and minds all over the country and the world. We need to talk to our legislators—both at the local and federal level—and hold them accountable for their actions. Those that support equal marriage rights and employment protection will get our financial support and, more importantly, our vote. We need to be active in our communities and schools to create alliances and protect our younger generation from bullies. We have to be the change we want to see. John F. Kennedy once said, “One person can make a difference and everyone should try.” In the technological world we live in today, that couldn’t be more true. We’ve seen it over and over again.
Our anniversary is now June 28. We share this day with the brave LGBT people of Stonewall who, in the very early morning hours on that day in 1969, decided enough was enough and fought back against police oppression in New York. This was a watershed moment for our community as our true liberation movement began, and we celebrate it every June during our Pride festivities. We believe the two Supreme Court rulings on June 26 of this year were also watershed moments.
Where we go from here is up to us. We’ll be there. Will you?
Art by Dave Arkle