Saturday, December 10, 2011

Love Passes ...While The Court Dawdles On

It feels so disappointing and wrong to be writing this post on the heels of the last one. The Story of Lillian Shuziko and John Berry had it's share of tragedy...but ended in love and hope for the future. I was glad to post it. Today's story...not so much. However, I am choosing to share it because I do not think there is anything to be gained from not telling it. In fact, I think it would do a disservice to the couple it involves. There has been a slew of Prop 8 related stories this week that...when put together...paint a disturbing picture in my opinion.

This last March, an elderly couple by the names of Derence Kernek and Ed Watson had posted a YouTube video asking the Ninth Circuit court to allow Judge Vaughn Walkers decision on Prop 8 to stand because....after 40 years of being together, Ed Watson's alzheimers was progressing and the couple wanted to marry before his condition worsened. sadly, their plea fell on deaf ears and now, nine months later, Ed Watson has passed away. Meanwhile...also in the news...the Ninth circuit continues it's glacial progress to decide whether or not Prop 8 opponents even have the ability to defend the case before their bench. Also, the issue of releasing the tapes of Judge Walkers initial trial is still being fought over....and Prop 8 proponents are STILL trying to have Judge Walkers decision vacated....again. None of this is moving the Ninth circuit case forward in any's just litigation about the litigation. How silly and absurd this all seems and there just doesn't seem to be any end it sight. meanwhile...couples like Derence and Ed are still caught under the gears of justice as it's broken machine totters on.

Perhaps I'm wrong to be upset by this.....Perhaps it's all a matter of perspective. 40 years ago, When Derence and Ed first got together, there would have been no hope for legal recognition of their relationship at all....not even a civil union. 40 years has seen the world change a great deal in it's opinions of...and protections for LGBT people. But.....does it have to be another 40 before the Ninth circuit does anything definitive?

When will it sink in that this isn't an "issue"?'s somebodies life. Is our lack of empathy for each other so deep that it is impossible for some to find a common emotional thread with couples like Derence and Ed? It seems like this is just a case like any other on the different from any other...sandwiched in between jurisdictional hearings and breaking for lunch...nothing more.

I know...the courts are probably still our best bet..and taking it to the ballot again is just as slow and subject to the opinions of a wider public, that equally may not be able to see this in light of real human lives. I should be happy to see anything happening at all. But I think about the narrow window that I had to get married in and the many, many people that did not make it. I sit in a unique position that a lot of fellow LGBT's are not allowed because of the vagueries of law and the opinions others who are not directly effected by it. I think about the insane, insulting, and dehumanizing arguments that have passed back and forth in these hearings and it makes me crazy. And then I hear stories like Ed and Derence's and I just want to cry.

So yes...the world is changing. But, I wish it had changed fast enough for these two gentlemen to say their "I do's". It would have meant so much to them. It would not have changed one wit of their 40 year lives together. It would not have made their love more real...nor changed how they feel about each other. But it would have allowed them to take their place in the world as two people who are an equal part of our common life and addition to the laws which would have protected both of them and provided for Derence in the event of Ed's passing. What could have...should have...been a celebration of 40 years of life has turned into something else infinitely more sad. What a way to enter Christmas...

But where Lillian and John's story found hope in the fact they got to be together when the world told them it was too did Ed and Derence. The courts may not give a dam...nor politicians...but they have 40 years of love and memories that will never be invalidated, vacated, or ever taken away by a vote. Like Lillian and John, they too got to be together for nearly a lifetime and that is the brightest star in the night that can lead us back to hope again. At least.....that is how I chose to see it.

My thoughts, prayers, and condolences are with Derence this holiday and I hope that my readers will take a moment to stop by the video above from the Courage Campaign and leave a note of support for Derence...any warmth and support we can give to each other this holiday season will go a long way.

Happy Holidays...and until next time dear readers.....


  1. Poor Derence…. I hope Ed and Derence had wills naming each other, so Derence isn’t left with nothing now. How sorry I feel for him that Ed wasn’t able to hold on past the holidays so however many Christmas seasons Derence has left, they don’t have to be quite THIS ruined by the unfortunate timing of Ed’s passing.

    Yes, it is sad that, for whatever reason, they didn’t get married within that narrow window of time. I have heard that window closed sometime in November 2008 although I’m not clear if it closed November 1st or the end of the month. In any event, Bryan, I seem to recall from your videos that you got married late October that year and, if that was the case, you and Jay could have missed that window too had you been anywhere between a few weeks later or perhaps even a few days.

    Yes, I agree marriage equality needs to become more than an “issue” and the general public needs to understand that, without it, real couples are being hurt as well as their children. They need to understand that when a gay man marries, what is in his heart is not about an “equalized or enhanced benefits package” per se, but love. Just as a hetero about to marry has found the love of his or her life, wants it to be forever and wants to make a permanent commitment joining their lives together forever, so it is with a gay man in like circumstances. The love, the commitment, the serious given to the vows taken—all of these are identical whether the couple marrying are gay or straight.

    Getting people to view marriage equality beyond an abstract “issue” is why your videos and your upcoming movie are so important to us. No one I’m aware of puts a human face on this better than you do and you are our best ammunition. I just wish we had an army of Leffew-like filmmakers carrying the torch for us. Occasionally, I’ll run across a few isolated videos from other gay married couples, some with kids and others not, but I am presently unaware of any others devoting their channels primarily to this like you have. In your videos, you and Jay have asked similarly-situated couples to add their video voices but, so far, I don’t think we have any real takers yet. To them, I say “we’re still waiting….”

    As to the progress or lack thereof of Perry v. Brown before the 9th Circuit, I’m going to post a couple of links from another gay blog I’ve found, namely , from the recent hearings. You’ll now be able to listen to the arguments made and the Court’s questioning the attorneys on both the issues of making the trial tapes -- and whether Judge Walker should have recused himself because he was gay . I only heard a minute or two of the Judge Walker recusal video, but it didn’t sound like the arguments were going well for the vagina-stuffing haters at all.

  2. No way are you wrong to be upset by this. The thing is even if there was seemingly no hope of equality back when they met, that still doesn't change the fact that inequality is a grave injustice to LGBT people everywhere. And it shouldn't have any effect on how we feel about that; frustrated, angry, upset and betrayed. I found the story of Ed and Derence, and Ed's passing to be heartbreaking (someone was definitely chopping some onions outside my bedroom window, and boy was it a big bag of onions). As citizens of the US, their country has truly failed them.

    I just don't understand arguments against marriage equality, they have absolutely no solid ground to stand on. And all the while that the argument carries on and we do not have our rights, it is hurting the lives and the families of LGBT people everywhere.

    I hate that it always seems to be such a slow process. For example in the UK talks are just being opened up about marriage equality with the aim of full equality by 2015. 2015? Why the hell does it have to take nearly 4 years? It's beyond me and it makes me sometimes feel we are helpless. We are lucky though with civil partnerships here that they pretty much cover all the bases of a marriage. They still aren't a marriage though.

    What makes this story worse is that their state momentarily teased them with equal rights (that thankfully you and Jay took advantage of), before snatching them right back again. And from what I've seen and heard there are people in the US that want to take even more of our rights away. I find that repulsive.

    A little vent there, but anyway. These two men had a wonderful 40 years together, something a lot of couples don't achieve and something that I will strive for when I meet the right man. It's a real shame and an injustice that Ed didn't get to marry his partner of 40 years before he passed. But like you say, that doesn't take a single thing away from the years they had together.

    RIP Ed, and thoughts to Derence. Let's hope their story can at least touch some hearts and gain some support for equality.

  3. Yes Fray...It seems rediculous that it should take four years to decide. the meantime you will have to sit their and listen to people talk about your life as if you are some imaginary creature not sitting right there in the room. And in their imaginations about who you are and what you do they will say things that will astound and infuriate you.

    And sadly....thats what we call a part of the process that leads to that magic word "progress". It can be a challenge to be patient....or to go even deeper, to forgive.

    So we just live out lives and enjoy them to the fullest we can. We open those lives to others so they know we are not characters on a TV show. We help others walking along the same path we are because we never know when we may need that same help....we work and we wait.

    Life can be such a conflicting mix of frustration, tragedy, and joy that it is hard to make sense of sometimes.


  4. *"so we just live OUR lives..."

    Captain typo has struck again.

  5. I have to say this is NOTHING short of heartbreaking. Definitions of marriage are not something to be determined by courts or process. Every marriage is different in so many ways however all share one thing in common... love. and THAT is the true definition of marriage and to be denied one of the most beautiful ways to express your love on the fact you don't meet the criteria set by others is something that has to change.
    The courts need to realize that while satisfying the needs of the few people who shout the loudest others like Ed and derence miss out on something spectacular.
    We've been patient but how long do we have to wait.

  6. why the people hate so much love

  7. Thanks so much for sharing this. very moving and inspiring at the same time.

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