tv Talk to Al Jazeera Al Jazeera June 27, 2015 6:00pm-6:31pm EDT
somebody once said to me "what's the difference between gay marriage and straight marriage?" i said, well, there really isn't a difference. >> in 2008, voters in california approved proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage in the state. two couples challenge the law in a case that went to the u.s. supreme court. half of the plaintiff team is chris perry and sandy steer. >> you grow up believing you are a second-class citizen from the moment you recognize you are gay
or lesbian. and until recently, you didn't think you ever would be equal. >> the other couple involved in the federal case, geoff zarillo and paul katano. >> there are r-i-g-h-t-s that come along. >> the justices declined to rule and therefore upheld al ban. >> our straight friends are getting married. the sky has not fallen in. >> i spoke to the proposition 8 challengers in washington, d.c. in a minute, you will hear from chris and sandy. but first, my interview with the men. they have been a couple since 1998 and married last year. >> was there a moment or a series -- or a series of moments where you realized that you were not just disappointed people, as a lot of people were in california after prop 8, but ready to join the fight, ready to put the bit in your teeth and
actually take this to court? >> your proposition 8 hurt. it hurt before it passed because the propaganda took a shift and the shift was to utilize this idea that children would be harmed, the institution of marriage would be harmed, heterosexual couples would no longer get married if you were to allow marriage equality. it was the propaganda that was filled with lies and misrepresentations of what our love represents that really lit the fire for us. before prop 8 passed, because we thought this cannot happen in california. but we saw that the tactics of t we saw the attack ads against us and prop 8 passed. it was really devastating. and we just stood up. i mean we stood up and said, this is enough. like we can't go door to door and lobby our neighbors for our rights any longer. we can't knock on the door and say please read the constitution because it applies to me as
well. we had to stand up and say, the law is black and white. we are going to lean on the law. >> once a person comes out to themselves, to their friends, whatever, that arrival at that place, hasn't that always in our history been accompanied by the married? >> absolutely. prop 8, and being involved in this case for paul and i, at the time, we had been together for over eight years. it sort of exposed a little weakness in our own relationship because we really thought, okay. yeah, it would be nice to be married, but that's not for us. we are not allowed to do that. and i think when prop 8 came to be, it woke us up and said, wow. you know, this really hurts when people talk about us this way or it really, you know, who are they to say these things about our relationship? you know, we have six nieces and nephews. we are the cool uncles. we are not going to hurt any children. we are not going to recruit any
children. so this prop 8 bout initiative that was out in california, it really made us think about who we were and where our relationship was ultimately going to go in this process of coming out, you know, when you see, when you are gay and lesbian, you have these moments in your everyday life where you have to come out every day, whether it's at the grocery store or the bank or a hotel desk. these are moments that you learn to cope and you learn to, oh, god, do i want to make this person uncomfor theable by telling them i want a king-size bed for me and my partner, not my business partner but my life partner. this is ongoing circle of coping and coming out. >> but ongoing, also, is the journey of millions of people, some you know, some you don't, who were perfectly happy with you making a domestic arrangement, working it out, filling in some of the legal
blanks through other means, not marriage, and that was fine. they didn't hate you. they were happy with the way things were, that you couldn't get married because marriage was an institution that was reserved for certain people and not you. >> well, you know, it's interesting that there was this idea of redefining what marriage means. and through our entire case, we never redefined marriage. for us, it was a universal story of love. right? you fall in love. you want to get married. >> that's someone everyone can touch on their lives. all we wanted was the right to marry because of the rights that come with it. and many times, we encountered the opinion zilings that said, no. you don't deserve those rights because of some moral or maybe a religious obstacle to that, a barrier that we had to break through. and we always said that the ceremonous rights that come along with that, that we would spell rites, the rites of marriage that some people want to protect is fine by us. we are not trying to impose our
beliefs or our lives or anything on those rites of marriage but there are rights marriage that come along with marriage as well. that's critical to us. >> that's what benefits our lives. geoff and i are together over 13 years. we have a home. if god forbid something happened to us -- and we have met couples whos lives have been destroyed because of the rights that are prohibited them after one of them is in the hospital passes away. and i think when you relay those stories, when you talk about the human stories of people struggling against this barrier to equality that it really does allow people to say, okay. we live in a country where we could be neighbors. a fence between our homes is the constitution. we don't ever have to agree if your rights of marriage are something that are sack rimonous to you and that you really want to hold on to and believe it is your definition, that's fine. >> that's absolutely acceptable to us. but on the other side of it, this fence, is the constitution that says that we all should be treated equally, that the 14th amendment protection all merges.
so disagreeing with it is perfectly acceptable. but what we believe is you can't enact law based on some moral or religious bias against someone else. country. >> i think you get -- i mean, to distill your question down to this basic argument of separate but equal, and that's really what the question is about: you can have these rights, but you just can't have this part of it. you can't have that word. well, you know, you can -- back in the '60s, you can have that water but you just can't drink it from the same water fountain as me. so, it's the whole thing of, well, you can have it, but you can't have it. so, it really has to be the whole thing. >> well, that word, the very word, and i guess all of the associations and emotions that cluster around it ended up being a big part of this argument. didn't it? >> that word has global recognition. wherever i go in the world, if i bring paul with me, introduce him as my husband, they know exactly what that means. they know exactly hour our
relationship is defined. now, going somewhere and introducing him as my partner or my boyfriend, partner is a very confusing word. if i say this is paul and he is my husband, and someone says, someone may have an internal bias to that, then that's their problem at that moment. >> that's not our problem at that moment. no other words need to be said other than this is paul, and et cetera my husband. >> because i keep hearing that that's a big hang-up. the word. it's huge. we will let you do all of those things, inheritance, taxes, joint returns, hospital visits, the whole deal, the whole shabang. just don't call it marriage. >> you don't really celebrate your domestic partnership date. it sounds like a -- more of a business legal contract than actually a contract of love and respect and liberty. and the word "marriage" is defined so many different ways for so many different people. but ultimately, it allows protections, and it allows
access to a language so that we can associate with each other in a specific way. and it also allows us to open and broaden that and allow us to associate with the world in a way that's universal and understood. and when you say to someone, oh, you can have this, but not that, it ultimately is telling you that you are separate and unequally in a way. we were fighting federally because we wanted to make sure if we had to move to a different protected. >> we are at about 45, 46, 47% of americans living in states where anybody can get married. >> uh-huh. >> how did this happen so fast? >> the momentum is undeniable right now. decades and decades of work have gone in to bringing the idea of being socially acceptable, bringing the idea of coming out in your home and your school and your church and saying, you know, accept me for who i am. if you don't, it's a reflex on you not me because i am living my truth and the truth is the
way that brings us this collect collective voice. and that collective voices is overwhelming right now. i think people's personal stories, strengths and strength of the network has come from so many people before us. >> how long have you been married now? >> we are coming up on a year. three weeks will be a year that we were married. >> wow. and they said it wouldn't last. this will. california. >> is there something different about the life that goes on in that house that you have shared together for a long time now that you are married? >> you know, it's funny, since being married, everyone asks us the question: does "i do" really matter that much? but that day came, and you thought, wow. we worked so hard for this and we dreamed about this moment. will it change everything? and it changed nothing in our lives because we are already like a married couple, where we live, our nieces and nephews call us the old married couple already. but it changed everything in that moment.
everything. >> why? why do you say that? >> it lifted this incredible weight of harm that we felt and that we suppressed for so many years. and we were able to finally, look at each other and feel equal not only in our home but to our society and in our state and in our country and it also brought this weight of obligation to make sure that everyone like us across the country can feel like us that day and that moment. >> the amazing thing is our straight friends are still getting married. our straight friends are still having children. they haven't said, wow, paul and geoff got married. >> that's it. we are not getting married. the sky has not fallen in. before not only strength ended our relationships and our community did but the institution of marriage as a whole has been strengthened by allowing gays and lesbian s to be part of it. >> but this is an unusual marriage not in the way that
people assume that i am saying that but that there is actually a stake for people who don't know you never even seen you before. nobody cares if my marriage falls apart except people who know me. a lot of people are going to be watching your marriage. >> i would say that equal access to marriage means equal access to divorce as well for people. i mean people come together and they marry and for whatever reason, if marriage doesn't work out, it doesn't work out. but we had to fight our entire lives to say, "i do." there is a commitment level there that we want to really bring a success ratio to this institution of marriage. listen, we've had friends who are married and, you know, get divorced. it's part of the normalcy of life as human beings, we all live the same way and that's what quality really brings to the titles. it brings an understanding to
the normalcy of how things are supposed to be versus putting something off into a different category, building a if he knew around, you know, gay marriages to see whether or not they work or not. >> i have been speaking to the two men who fought for marriage equality in the battle over proposition 8. next, we will hear from the two women plaintiffs in the case.
>> right after the texas sodomy case, "time magazine" came out with two versions of their cover showing two very squared away, bushy looking gay couples and gay women. the headline was: is marriage next?" and i thought, wow. i hadn't even thought about it. had you been thinking about it, chris? >> no. actually, i think marriage equality seemed like a much more recent phenomenon although, of course, it's not. the lawrence case is an example of sort of the worst kind of lgbt discrimination where someone is criminalized for their behavior or who they are . instead of that which i think we are so fortunate to have that over with, we have moved to a time when we are talking about something as positive as >> but i remember just before
"lawrence" talking to activists people involved with hrc empty the legal landscape and people said marriage not on our radar screen. let's talk about equality first. was the possibility of marriage marriage? >> it's all about having the same options of everybody else. it isn't even whether or not you ever exercise that option. to be told by your government: you don't even get to choose is so harmful. you grow up believing you are a second class citizen from the moment you recognize that you are gay or lesbian and until recently, you didn't think you ever would be equal. marriage is the most significant decision you make as an adult. and if the government's telling you, sorry, when you decide to be with someone of the same sex, you don't get to be married.
you will never be as good as everyone else, you are forever in the status of a child essentially in this child. benefits of all kinds are delivered to couples, individuals through marriage. if that weren't the case, then we could say something like, well, we want to reject that paradigm and go with a different one because it had so many bad -- there were so many bad chapters in history for women and other people with marriage, but when you look at what the institution does today, it delivers more than a thousand benefits to couples. if you tell the whole group of americans who pay taxes and do everything else they don't get to have those benefits it is a powerful negative message and disappear. >> sandy, was it a gradual think coming to the idea of marriage going a possibility of something you could have? >> for me, i think it was a little bit less so. i was married to a man for a number of years and had children with him before that marriage ended and i fell in love with kris. so marriage was something i always thought i had access to. i could not see a legitimate
reason for us not to be given equal access to that right as anybody else. >> well, that said of life experience actually heightens the contrast for you. >> uh-huh. >> you had been married. >> right. >> you knew what being married was about? >> i know all about marriage. you know, somebody once said to me, what's the difference between gay marriage and straight marriage and i said, well, there really isn't a difference. the difference is that is it working or is it not in your life? do you love each other? are you committed to each other? gauge marriages, straight marriages have the same king he knows as anybody else. and i would say that with chris and i, we got married because we fell in love. and we want to have a family together like anybody else who gets married. it's just the same thing. >> well, we are all similar age so we can remember the express: it. you had to really think about
what it would mean to make a federal case out of it. >> the scrutiny is intention. it's completely 100% worth it. i try and explain over and over again the difference between using the court system to resolve a problem between -- or the ballot box. the ballot box wasn't working for gays in this country only a few years ago. we are a minority. we are a significant minority. we will never be the majority. so ballot box measures on our rights, our civil rights, will never go well and so we were left with really settle for what the majority wants or challenge our state's laws that ban us from getting married. and when you look at this way and you what harm it's causing you, your family, your it kids and everyone else, it's not that difficult of a choice anymore. you start to feel likely if i problem. >> sandy, no hesitation? >> not to get involved in the case certainly not and we felt
strongly that after proposition 8 passed, it was terrible for california but it sent such a negative message to the children in our state that the they couldn't count on -- they couldn't count on the government to protect them if they are growing up gay in our state and in terms of our own involvement, we felt like we were at a good place in our lives to commit stoto something like that because we had solid stable careers, stable family life. our children were growing up. i never once wished we hadn't done it, but it was certainly a major investment, far more than we anticipated but i would echo what chris said. it was very much worth it because we just never took our eye off of the prize and the california. >> would you recommend to people you just meet to be petitioners in a major precedent-setting national case? sounds like a great idea. >> if you feel deeply passionate about an issue and you can see no other path forward, i think
it's a great option to exercise and again, you know, i have said i have never been a terribly patriotic person because i felt discriminated against my buyer life and it wasn't until we took prop 8 to federal court and i stood in that courthouse, i took an oath and gave testimony under the american flag that i felt like an american for the first time because it was the first time i felt like i was able to express a grievance in a place that was established to resolve them and that i was getting the same access to that institution for that problem as anybody else and i have felt so excluded from other institutions. i never wanted to be in the military but if i had, i wouldn't have been able to be myself. i felt excluded from marriage. in so many places, i felt i shouldn't try to work there? >> does it operate when you hear kris talk about a whole lifetime of associations, of assumptions that she would be excluded,
barred, treated differently? is it different for someone who comes out later in life? >> i think my experience is quite different. i did come out later, but coming out later causes a great deal of disappointment in a lot of people that you are close to because they have known you as differently and so i think i experienced the -- some of the rejection and the emotional trauma hater in life. i was an adult so it's quite different. to me, that's the most important thing possible is that the work that we do sets that stage that some day, somebody gets to take it for granted. >> roughly half of the population has marriage equality and it just seems like it happened in a flash, but people are still changing their minds. there are people who are wamping this now on television who are very unhappy about the fact that you could get married. so yes, mission accomplished for you guys. you can go and do your thing but
half of the country wondering about it, unsure about it, unsure where it all leads. there is still a lot of battles to be fought. sloolt true en though more people support marriage equality, not everyone does port marriage equality. not everyone ever will. we have a constitution to protect the people from the people. >> that's what this country was founded on. >> the l i know this sandy and i want to do is upset or disrupt anybody else ever. we would never expect other people would stand up and be supportive. we just hope we don't disrupt or upset them. >> said, it is important to come out. harvey milk said it 30 years ago and was assassinated for being out. i think his legacy is very powerful in the sense that because he was out, he paid a huge price and i feel a burden and a responsibility to do that in my life. >> when the we come back, we will hear from the two couples about the future of marriage, theirs and everyone's.
this week on the show, the plaintiffs who challenged proposition 8, here is a final thought from each of the couples. >> it's interesting to have a group in society that really, really wants to get married. instead of destroying marriage, as people have predicted, could gay people be reviing it because they want it so bad? >> when you want something so hard, like paul said, when you fight for something so hard like marriage, we want to bring, hopefully, some security and stability to that. >> i don't know if that's necessarily our responsibility. i think our responsibility is to find the person that we love and to commit to that person and,
hopefully, be part of an institution that can bring some type of pride to our community as well. >> you are embarking on something that already is in a lot of trouble in the case of marriage, a social institution that has been buffeted and under heavy wind for a while. is it being changed by you? >> i think we make big changes in this country when we know it's time. we de segregated schools. we have the loving case, many instances of bringing people together and bringing the country together because the laws that kept us apart were too negative and too hard on people. it's hard to go through change. sandy and i are patient. we don't expect everybody to be where we are right now. but we do hope people can at least embrace that fairness and equality are fundamental principles and we are exercising our right to belong and not to
be better than, not to be less than but to belong. it's also something that struck me as incredibly wonderful when we learned long after the trial was over, long after sandy and i had been married that chuck cooper, the lead counsel for the other side saw us get married on television. he couldn't -- the quote that i read was that he couldn't help but rejoice in our happiness and this is the person who brought the case all the way to the supreme court and argued in front of nine justices that we shouldn't be married. when he saw us get married, he couldn't help but rejoice in our happiness and that, i take, is a very powerful and important sign of progress because nobody led the effort more than mr. cooper and nobody understood better when it was over why sandy and i wanted to be married. >> explorer and environmentalist jean-michel cousteau. >> we are visitors and we need to respect that. >> surprising secrets of the ocean. >> if it wasn't for the ocean,
we would have a lot of problems today. >> and the harsh reality facing our planet. >> enough is enough. >> i lived that character. >> we will be able to see change. this is techknow. a show about innovations that can change lives. the science of fighting a wild-fire. we're going to explore the intersection of hardware and humanity and we're doing it in a unique way. this is a show about science by scientists. tonight, techknow investigates the ivory trail they've tried to seize it, burn it, but nothing has