It was a perfect day in Southern California. The sun was
shining and the breeze was blowing softly through the papel picado banners
strung along the patio. My sister was getting married and—after years of
heartache—all of our family was there.
The wedding was beautiful, but in the eyes of the law, they
weren't really married in the state of California. They spent weeks filling out
paperwork in order to legally construct protections that gave them a fraction
of what straight couples are automatically given under the law. All of that
changed Wednesday when the Supreme Court paved the way for gay marriage to
become legal in California, and on Friday, California Gov. Jerry Brown's office
issued an order to allow same-sex marriages to resume.
There was never any doubt in her mind that she was gay. She
was outed to my parents by a friend while in high school in 1977. We come from
a traditional Catholic, Mexican-American family and it did not go over well. Our
parents sent her to a priest who told her that she had to change and stop
disgracing her family—or the fiery gates of hell awaited. The idea planted by
the priest that she was a lesser person stayed with her for years to come.
She left home at 18 and put herself through college by working
nights at a donut shop. It took years for my parents to come around, but they
eventually accepted her. My sister went on to law school and is now a successful
attorney. She is also a mom, raising a wonderful daughter. All the while, she
has worked hard to give back to her community and has helped raised money for
law school scholarships for Latinos, and to raise funds for public schools.
"I've spent my entire life doing what I can to help other
people," she told me. Part of that was to prove to the world that she was not a
disgrace and there was nothing wrong with her.
The Supreme Court not only made it so that she and her
partner can get the same benefits as other married people, but for her, she
said, it "legitimizes who I am." The court determined that gay people are equal
under the law. It meant that she was finally whole.
My sister tried to explain to me the complexities of the decision
and why it was so important to her. Why she felt that she was finally accepted.
This breaks my heart because to me, she's the bravest, smartest, funniest woman
I've ever known and she's my hero. I know that her wife feels the same way and
I'm thrilled to say that now that they can, they'll be legally married. And
I'll be there cheering them on.