An unexpected and hopeful thing happened just this past week that gave me greater hope about how quickly our country is turning toward marriage equality. After a surprising call from my father I wrote a column that began this way:
My father, who is in his late 70s, called me following the two days of U.S. Supreme Court testimony. He was upset with Justice Roberts for suggesting that perhaps the federal government had no role in this marriage business. "They know what they need to do," my father said "because the did it before."
My father recalled how as a young GI returning from England with his British bride he was limited in the number of bases where he could be stationed. It was assumed that my biracial mother was a White woman married to a Black airman and that took the South off the table in 1958.
"Unequal marriage laws were the reason you and your older brothers were born in Maine," my father told me. It was a simple statement of fact and it banged into my heart sideways. It had never occurred to me and even now I can't pinpoint the cause of the peculiar disorientation his words left me with.
My Dad said he wanted to deliver that message to the Justices so I sent what I had written to my father. I didn't say so but it was in part to fact-check and gauge his reaction before I decide where to send it.
To place this in context, my coming out to my father was not a hallmark moment. It was angry, painful and tearful and when all was said and done, it was the last time I lived under his roof. But my father has traveled a long way. So far that in 2009 he walked me down the aisle at my wedding. But this call was a surprise because he wanted to do more than privately support his daughter, he wanted to call on the Justices to do right by us all.
So I sent him the letter and he didn't just fact check it, he sent it to all of our family members here and in England and he forwarded it to a bunch of his friends including old military and high school buddies. I discovered that he'd done that when I got a series of replies.
Here's the one that brought tears to my eyes from someone my Dad went to PS 19 Curtis High School in the 1940s.
My wife and I had the pleasure of meeting you and your siblings at the ceremony marking the fiftieth year of your parent's marriage and the regal renewing of their vows. Your dad and I met, as high school freshmen, in September 1949. From that first encounter we became friends and over the years I have come to love him as a brother. We live only 90 miles apart, but I still do not get to visit with him as often as I wish.
I have lived my whole life, and raised my children, with our Lord's words imbedded in our souls. "Love one another, as I have loved you." However, until reading your words, I found myself embracing a Justice Roberts attitude when the subject of same-sex-marriage arose. "Let someone else deal with it."
After reading and re-reading your elegant and passionate discourse, I find it has become impossible for me to continue burying my head in the sand instead of truly loving each other. Thank you for illuminating this old man. I guess it is never too late to open one's mind and heart to the realities of our lives on this earth.
Thank you Nadine.
I pray God's blessings for you, your spouse and child. The Lord willing, I look forward to seeing y'all in the near future.
Nadine Smith is executive director of Equality Florida. See www.eqfl.org .