There are few days where you absolutely know that you are a witness to history.
Yesterday was one of those days.
And this morning –almost 24-hours to the minute after our dear friends and church members, George Harris and Jack Evans became Dallas County’s first legally married same sex couple– it still seems completely surreal. But, also, a day of overwhelming joy too.
You may have heard/seen some of the news coverage of the wedding. It’s been on the national and international news. I’m so proud of my spouse, and life-partner, Judge Dennise Garcia, for officiating. As both of us have said for years, George and Jack teach us every day about commitment, fidelity, love, and what it takes to make it over the long haul; not just the short run.
Two important things to say. And I think George and Jack would agree with me on this.
Although they were the first in Dallas County, they were but a symbol of many yesterday. In fact, one of the beautiful moments that nobody could have possibly planned was that, witnessing the wedding, in that courtroom with them, were fifty or so younger couples, also waiting for their marriage licenses and their moment of joy.
Those beautiful couples, moments later, would fan out all over the George Allen courthouse, to the twenty-seven state district judges who had verbally agreed to “waive” the 72-hour waiting period, and perform marriage ceremonies.
These couples, poignantly, were the witnesses to George and Jack’s historic moment. There was not a dry eye in the room.
See for yourself…
The second thing to say is that yesterday was also about the many already legally married same sex couples. At Northaven, we have somewhere between 15-20 same sex couples, who have been legally married. (Some, as early as the late 1990s). They too have been waiting for this day…when their marriages would be legal in their home city, county, and state. Yesterday was their day too.
Yes, George really asked the clerk, “Is there a senior discount?”
Yes, when a reporter asked what they would do for a honeymoon, he quipped, “Probably a Martini and a nap…”
Joy. Laughter. Tears.
That was how we can describe their day. And everyone’s in downtown Dallas yesterday.
But, at the beginning of the morning, as Dennise and I entered the Records Building downtown, I snapped this picture. A short while after this, our county clerk would begin issuing licenses for same sex couples.
But there in the midst of joy over justice was this plaque. And it called to me.
It’s a plaque put up to commemorate the former existence of “Whites Only” fountains in Dallas County public buildings.
Somehow this plaque, a week after the deaths of the nine Charleston martyrs, and on the first day of same sex marriage in Texas, called out:
“The work is never done.”
“The past is never the past.”
That plaque reminds me that Monday, despite the fact that there is no higher law in any state than the Supreme Court, some Texas county clerks and judges will still not issue marriage licenses. Some will says it’s because of computer glitches or legal confusion. And so the discrimination will be less obvious than a “whites only” fountain. But it will be real.
That plaque reminds me that Monday, too many whites will take too much comfort in the rapidly vanishing Confederate flag. They will mistake the demise of that outward and visible symbol of racism for the inward and spiritual demise of racism in the human heart.
But if racism were that easy to eradicate, twenty-one-year olds would not gun down nine people, decades after the “whites only” signs vanished.
The past is never the past. The struggle to eradicate racism, the struggle for LGBT rights, may well never fully be over.
George and Jack, can tell harrowing tales of how the police would round up homosexuals in harassing raids. But yesterday, they walked into the halls of justice and got them some. That is good and it is beautiful.
My friend, Mark Miller, has a great song he’s written, based on a line in a speech by President Obama:
“From Seneca Falls, from Selma to Stonewall…
We’ve come a long way…
We’ve come a long way…
But the journey isn’t over.”
The journeys are connected. They are intersectional.
So, it was that a “Whites Only” sign reminded me of all of this, even on this day of extravagant joy and celebration.
Love Is what drives the moral arc of the universe. King was right. It does bend toward justice. Some days, a little more quickly.
But the journey is never over. And even on the most joyous of days, the past is still there to remind us, lest we ever forget.