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Sunday Out at the Piazza — Equality Forum Concludes

May 4th, 2010 No comments

At about 1 pm this past Sunday, I set out with my pre-school twins for the newly chic Northern Liberties section of the city, where Equality Forum‘s Sunday Out event had moved. I was especially looking forward to the interfaith blessing of a slew of same-sex commitment ceremonies. Our neighborhood is very progressive and we have many friends but everyone else is either (1) straight or (2) if gay, childless. (Just a couple of weeks ago, a gay couple on the next block adopted a kid. Hooray!) So I thought that watching all of those commitments would provide a cultural corrective to the onslaught of straight messaging and iconography that is so, er, wedded to marriage that I sometimes worry that my kids have trouble understanding anything else — in spite of the evidence right in front of them.

Before I get to that event, though, I want to talk about the misnamed “Family Fun Zone.” It was for LGBT families, all right, but it wasn’t much fun and was hardly a “zone,” unless that term can be accurately applied to a rectangle of scorching blacktop at some distance from the epicenter of the Piazza. When we got there, only a handful of other kids were on hand, and the events were few. Hoping for something jumpy or watery, we settled for face painting — which was actually quite good. Alexa, heavily into a dinosaur phase, opted for T-Rex, whose teeth were cleverly painted around her mouth for a terrifying effect when she spoke. Courtnee opted for a full arm’s worth of rainbow butterflies.

After that, Alexa looked around and said, “There isn’t much to do.” There was no arguing with that (a much better effort needs to be made for next year), so we stopped for some ice cream and then headed back to the Piazza for the interfaith blessing.

We entered from the side furthest from the stage, and at first I wasn’t optimistic about the event. The Piazza was barely half full, and it was hard to see where the undifferentiated crowd gave way to the couples. So we wandered closer. And then I was delighted to be in attendance. The celebrants complemented each other perfectly: Tim Safford, who’d appeared at the History panel earlier in the week, was bright and affirming; Joseph Tolton, of the Rehoboth Temple, was emotional: happy, yet visibly angry at the continued injustice (here‘s a nice thumbnail of his ministry and activism); and Rabbi Linda Holtzman closed the proceedings with a heart-felt Hebrew chant and the ceremonial breaking of the glass. When has that act, meant to reflect the challenges facing the newly married couple, held such rich symbolism? Holtzman offered a communal narration of the ritual, reminding the couples that their joy would be found even in the face of the challenges that not only their relationship but the broader society would throw in front of them.

The kids were quiet and attentive. The only comment I recall during the ceremony was Alexa’s statement that she wanted to stay. Remarkable, given that it was easily 90 degrees on the paved piazza, and that we’d by that point been walking around for about an hour and a half. More than once, they asked me whether “all of these people” were two men and two women. Yes, look around. Two men in matching tuxes. A lesbian couple, with one in a dress and one in a beautiful pants and flowing blouse. An African-American couple, with one man in a wheelchair pushed by his spouse. Some very unconventional couples; others conventional in all but their sexual orientation.

How liberating! Not just for us, but for everyone who just wants to be able to define their marriage in their own wonderfully idiosyncratic way. By now, the crowd had doubled and a huge cheer went up at the end of the ceremony.

Why, oh why, is this so hard for people to understand or, failing that, to at least allow? In an image that flashed briefly in a video following the ceremony, I read this familiar but forgotten sign:

Some people are gay. Get over it.

Is it really more complicated than that? Does anyone still believe that our most virulent opponents are free of their own pyscho-social issues; problems that animate their vitriol? Just today, another story emerged of a sad man, George Alan Rekers — co-founder of the dangerously homophobic Family Research Council — who was spotted with a male escort disembarking from an airplane after a long vacation together. No one’s even surprised by these stories any more. (This guy was really nasty to the community. Read the whole stories for the infuriating details.)

Sorry…where was I?

After that, we wondered around a bit more, found a horse stable (fillies in Philly?) to spend some time, ran into a few folks, and left. While the Family Fun Zone needs some improvement to live up to its aspirational name, the kids learned plenty about family on Sunday.

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My piece on the Saturday conversation with Dan Choi will appear sometime during the next few days on 365gay.com. When it does, I’ll link from here. Then I’ll offer a wrap-up piece on the week-long event.