Reading this good news reminds me of my own brief encounter with the personal and historical ramifications of the state Supreme Court ruling that prompted the homophWalnut Creek Baking Companyobes to craft this ballot measure in the first place.
“I’m here to pick up my wedding cake!” he exclaimed.
He hurried to the counter, talking excitedly. “We just got married at the courthouse 45 minutes ago!” He explained that he was on his way to a restaurant in town, where he and his new spouse were hosting a party. One of the employees beamed him a smile and hurried back into the kitchen to get the cake. The owner and another employee congratulated him.
Yes, it’s not typical for a groom to stop by a bakery to pick up his wedding cake between ceremony and reception. But these are not ordinary times. Since the court’s ruling went into effect on June 25, hundreds of same-sex couples have descended on county courthouses around the state to pick up their marriage licenses so they can become “spouses for life.” The Los Angeles Times reported that the numbers of marriage licenses issued throughout the state in June, the traditional month of weddings, doubled. In Contra Costa County, the county where I live, about 80 gay couples received licenses. The first to wed in one these ceremonies in my county was Stephen Weir, the county clerk-recorder. His wedding made national news because, as county clerk, an elected position, it had long been his job to issue marriage licenses, but he could never issue one to himself and his dearly beloved—until June 25.
Many of these weddings are hastily arranged, like the man who came to pick up his cake at my local bakery. But even though some of these same-sex weddings are spur-of-the-moment, I’m guessing that a fair number are a long time coming, in terms of the months and years that these couples have devoted to each other.
I was excited for the bakery customer. These are exciting times. I’ve been a proponent of gay rights since I was a teenager, when, yes, some of my best friends were gay. I was active in the theatre department at my suburban, high-achieving high school, and, to some extent the stereotype is true: the performing arts do attracting creative souls of a certain persuasion. This was back in the early 1980s, a time when even the suburbs of San Francisco, America’s gay Mecca, were just starting to emerge from the dark ages of social intolerance. Most of my friends, who were male, felt it was necessary to hide their orientation through high school; one even attempted suicide because he had trouble coming to terms with his orientation.
Fortunately, a quarter of a century later, courts, lawmakers, and the American people are starting to accept, albeit slowly, that all our communities house a minority of people who don’t follow the “straight” path to love, but who deserve the same rights to legally-sanctioned commitments as everyone else. In my view, gay rights is the civil rights issue of our times.
When the bakery employee returned from the kitchen with a large box holding the man’s cake, I couldn’t help but jump out of my seat and run over to sneak a peek. The cake was big and round and covered with white frosting. Decorating its top was a picture, in dark buttercream icing, of two champagne flutes clinking together and words congratulating the newly wedded pair of men.
Of course, it was none of my business to gaze at this man’s cake, but I wanted to wish him well. He quickly paid for his cake and rushed out to get to his reception. The owner remarked that her bakery had received about a dozen requests to bake cakes for same-sex weddings over the past week. I continued to feel the man’s joy as I returned to my seat. He and his partner deserved their celebration. In their own private way, they had just made history. And I felt grateful that, by being present when the man came into the bakery to pick up his cake, he had given me a chance to be a witness to that history.