STORIES: Tom & Josh

Tom & Josh: Marriage is an Important Right
Ana Carpenter wrote this story about the Sept. 18 marriage of her grandfather Tom to Josh, his partner of more than 30 years.

When my grandfathers, Tom Carpenter and Josh Brown, came to visit my family in Oakland, Calif., I took them to see my sister’s school in Berkeley. We took them to Nabolom’s Bakery, and as we sat down to eat our cookies, Carrie and I both began to kick each other urgently.

“I don’t wanna tell them, you do it,” we said to each other. Finally I gave in.

“We think you should get married,” I blurted out.

In November 2009, I went to Sacaramento, Calif., to protest Prop 8 with my mother, grandma, sister, and brothers. I stood in a huge crowd of people, surrounded by rainbow flags and signs demanding equal rights. I marched past the Harvey Milk building holding up my sign that said “Then… Interracial Marriage. Now… Gay Marriage.”

It was one of the first state capital protests I had ever been to, and I could see I was part of something that mattered. I was fighting not only for my rights, but the rights of my best friend, my teachers (one who got married right before Prop 8 passed), the ministers at my mother’s church, and for the future LGBTQ community.

When I heard gay marriage was legal in Iowa, I had mixed feelings. I was thrilled for my grandfathers, and thought they would naturally rush to be wed, since they have been together 31 years. I was hopeful the next time I went to visit, I would no longer have to listen to everyone calling my grandfathers “special friends”. But I was also angry. Who would have thought Iowa would legalize gay marriage before San Francisco?

When I found out Tom and Josh had no real plans to get married, I was a bit taken aback. Had they not both been closeted, and married at least once to women they could never love the same way they loved each other? They were alive when Harvey Milk was killed by Dan White. They were alive when the gay community was actively hunted by the authorities.

I could never imagine trying to survive in such a hateful environment. I grew up with love and acceptance as a part of my life, so when I first discovered how surrounded by hate I was, I knew I needed to see a gay wedding. No Commitment Ceremony; I wanted to see two people who were in love legally tie the knot.

I talked to my sister and mother about how important it was, not just to me, but to the future, and to closeted or battered gay people everywhere. As many gay couples as possible should get married, to show the nation we are indeed equal. All humans can love, and if a person finds the love of their life, like my grandfathers have, there is no earthly reason why they should not be able to have the same ceremonial and legal rights as all the heterosexual couples.

My grandfathers like to say my sister and I forced their wedding and all the stress it entails onto them, but I see it as reminding them of all the rights they fought for, especially since my grandpa Josh is a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence. It is their obligation to fight for their rights, and to get married to the true love of their lives.

I was so torn up about Yes on 8 passing in California, seeing one of my high school teacher’s wedding album looking so happy next to her new wife, and then a month later being told her marriage wasn’t legal, when really, banning gay marriage, and all the civil rights that go with it, is one of the most heinous crimes against the gay community.

I am proud to say that this Saturday, I will legally gain another grandfather, and that after the first 20 years of my life, my grandpa Josh will be legally recognized as family, even though he has always been so to me and my siblings.



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