As a gay man, I’ve been asked many times in my life – usually by straight people – what I do or can do to make the world a better place for others in the LGBT community. Of course, there are the obvious things like participating in Gay Pride events, supporting charitable causes that fund efforts to improve our lives, or even just coming out to put another human face on what some regard as “the others … them … the people not like us.”
While all of those things are important (and I’ve done them all), I’ve come to believe that the most active thing I could do and have done to make lives better for LGBT folks is marry my husband, Jon, and take our battle for marriage recognition into the legal arena. Honestly, I don’t even think of it as a “battle,” since that implies there’s an enemy – even more “others … them…” – and it’s really NOT about us vs. them. It’s not a “battle.” It’s a movement, and I’m proud to be part of it.
Jon and I got married last year in Iowa, and have been together for almost seven years. Our relationship is based on the same relatively simple things that define all marriages. We work hard. We spend time together. We own a home together and work hard to make it a reflection of us. We talk to and spend time with our families and friends, and celebrate holidays together. We participate in community and neighborhood events here in New Orleans, and try to make our city a better place. We love each other, really and truly, deeply, and with the same kind of lifelong commitment heterosexuals have and are allowed to have recognized legally.
So the NEXT best thing I’ve done to try and advance the quality of life for LGBT people is take our marriage to court. Last summer, not long after DOMA was overturned, we filed a lawsuit in federal court – Robicheaux et al. vs. Caldwell – in an effort to require Louisiana to recognize us as a married couple. A married lesbian couple, Nadine and Courtney Blanchard, (right) joined the suit, so now there are four of us. Our lawyer, Scott Spivey, is working the case pro bono because he believes in us, believes in the cause, and believes in equality.
There have been setbacks. In late November, the judge assigned to our case dismissed the complaint on jurisdictional grounds. We’re not giving up, and neither is Scott. A motion has already been prepared to amend the original suit and file it in a different venue, in the hope that we might gain more traction.
Do we expect to win in the short term? Honestly, no. We anticipate the court will reject our complaint on a technicality. We’ll appeal to a higher court. They’ll reject it, too, most likely. And then we’ll take it to the Supreme Court of the United States.
One of our friends and supporters said he thinks this process will take about eight years. We hope he’s wrong, of course, and that judges right here in Louisiana see the errors that underlie current laws and give us – and other same-sex married couples throughout our state – the same rights as our heterosexual friends. (Not “them” and not “us,” but ALL of us.) But if it does take eight years, that’s OK. There’s no expiration date on justice, in our view. There’s no point at which we will give up. There’s no end to the love married partners feel for each other. How long would you wait for your relationship to be considered “real”? I don’t see an end point, and I never will.
Whether it takes eight months or eight years or even longer, we know we’ll finish this strong, we’ll finish it together, and we’ll finish it on the right side of history. Someone else may even finish the race before we do, earning legal recognition for same-sex couples throughout the United States. That’s fine, too. We don’t have to finish FIRST, but we do have to finish. This is not a race you can start and then drop out – any more than I could drop out of my love for Jon, or Nadine and Courtney could say, “never mind,” and move along as if their love didn’t matter. We’re not going to stop until it’s won.
We have a lot of great people on our side, even if the law currently isn’t. We hope we can count you among the supporters of our effort. We’re not asking for a lot, really, except that you stand up – even in little ways – for what’s right and for us. Maybe we’ll encourage you to do something you’ve never done – march in a Gay Pride parade, join your neighborhood association WITH your partner, come out to your coworkers or your family. Maybe you’ll even get married. (If you do, we can recommend a beautiful outdoor wedding spot in Iowa!)
You can follow our case – and to some extent, our lives – on our website , or on Facebook . We post updates on the case and on events and fundraisers we have here in New Orleans to support the cause and pay the court costs. Every “like” on Facebook helps, so tell your friends, no matter where they live.
Someday, we know we’ll prevail. Someday, the state of Louisiana and every state in the Union will have to recognize that Jon and Derek, Courtney and Nadine, and thousands of other committed loving couples are legally MARRIED. Until then, I’m proud to be on the front lines – oops, there’s another “battle” analogy. I’m proud to be a party to this lawsuit. I’m proud to be chiseling away at another brick in the wall between “us” and “them,” and breaking down the stereotypes and prejudices that harm everyone.
I hope you’ll be proud, too, when you tell your friends and family about what we’re doing here in Louisiana. If you’re coming to New Orleans, let us know. We’d love to meet you and share our journey, and maybe even take you along for the ride. The finish line isn’t yet in sight, but it’s out there and we’re going to cross it.
Cheer us on, will you?