The American Military Memorial Chapel in Westminster Abbey gets a slightly larger number of visitors than usual. Other than that, it was just another Summer Sunday here in London.
The day before on other hand was a different story, there were tens of thousands of people massed on the streets of central London Trafalgar Square was standing room only as various music acts and celebrities appeared on a stage and huge video monitors. As Eric and I made our way through the crowd I overheard one elderly American tourist ask her companion; "is all this for the Fourth of July?" Her friend replied she thought it must be. I didn't have the heart to tell them they had wandered into the middle of London's LGBT (Lesbian, Gay Bi-Sexual and Trans-gender) Pride celebration.
I will confess a certain ambivalence toward Pride celebrations in the U.S. this year. Part of it stems from the fact that I am in London partially by choice, and mostly by necessity. As travelling to the UK is far easier for me, than travelling to the US is for Eric. When I get asked at Heathrow Airport; "What is the purpose of your visit the UK?" I smile and say I am here to visit my Fiancé who is a UK Permanent Resident. At this point the UK Immigration officer invariably smiles and says; "that's nice, how long have you been engaged to her or him?"
Yes you read that correctly, they say "her or him". I smile and say how long I have known Eric and how long I will be staying in the UK on this visit. Often times I will get "congratulations", and once the immigration official who actually remembered me from my numerous other trips through Heathrow Passport Control, said; "tell Eric hello from us!"
It's amazing how the addition of that one little word "him", didn't cause the sky to fall on to the United Kingdom. Frogs didn't fall from the sky, the Earth didn't open up and spew lava all over Central London. At UK Border & Customs control, recognition of the dignity and equality of same sex couples is as ordinary as asking if you have any taxable good to declare.
Meanwhile over on the other side of the Atlantic the very idea that Same Sex couples might deserve the same BASIC civil rights and protections as everyone else is a subject of more debate than proposal to declare independence from Great Britain provoked back in 1776.
Fast forward to 2010, for the Republican Party and the "Tea Party Movement" they have manufactured, the idea that Gay and Lesbian Americans (who pay the same taxes as everyone else yet are denied the same basic civil rights) might be allowed to get married, is tantamount to the world coming to an end.
So the GOP demands that the United States continue to cling to a law that prevents any recognition of Same Sex couples by the Federal Government. Of course I am talking about the ridiculously mis-named "Defense of Marriage Act." (DOMA) It provides the legal excuse for the United States to discriminate against us and over 40,000 bi-national same sex couples just like us.
The Republican "tea baggers" have a problem with me wanting to get married. It is the fact that the person I love has the audacity to be the same gender as I am. Now if Eric was female then Uncle Sam would give us his blessing no questions asked. I would be able to sponsor my fiancé for permanent residency in the U.S. and my government ( that I support through my taxes), would beam it's approval down upon us both. But the fact that Eric is a man just as I am, means that as far as my government is concerned , our relationship doesn't even exist.
All this despite the clear promises my President has made to the contrary.
So on this Independence Day weekend, as I look back across the Atlantic, I see an irrational fixation by Conservatives to deny me and millions of Americans like me the same basic right to the "pursuit of happiness " they claim to hold so dear.
Now, I really don't want to leave my country. Unlike Sarah Palin and the scared gullible bigots that hang on her every sad pathetic twitter posting, I really do believe that the greatness of the Unites States lies in our diversity. "E Pluribus Unum" - Out of Many , One. Yet for me to do something as basic as get married to the person I love, I have to do just that. Leave my country.
So I am moving to the United Kingdom. Because unlike in 1776, in 2010 it is the people of Great Britain who have more civil rights and greater freedom than Americans do. Unlike in 1776, in 2010 it is the American Government, not the British Crown, that subjects its people to unfair taxation without representation. Unlike in 1776, it is The United States of America that has politicians seeking to preserve a status quo of inequality and treats groups of its own citizens unfairly.
In 2010, the only quote by Thomas Jefferson the Republicans like to remember is the one about 'watering the tree of liberty with the blood of tyrants.' Everything else Jefferson said on human rights, and the innate dignity of every person, they like to forget.
In 2010 the Republican Party and "tea bagger" monster it has created have abandoned John Adams' vision of America as the beacon of freedom for the world. Instead, they have a scared, narrow vision of America as a place of freedom only for some. Everyone else, (especially if your skin happens to be a darker hue, or worse, you don't worship their idea of God in the way they prescribe ), is suspect and therefore "un-American".
I look across the Atlantic and I see a country which remains determined to treat me and the person I love as something less than equal. A country that gives credence to lunatics who claim that granting me the same basic civil rights as everyone else would bring about nothing less than the destruction of the country and possibly even the world.
How do you respond to that kind of irrational hatred?
I can't help but wonder what John Adams would now think of the nation he helped start . He probably would still be asking the question he asked back in 1776. The same question I am asking as I look across the Atlantic and see the Republican Party, a party I once supported, allow itself to become the standard bearer for hatred, racism, xenophobia and bigotry; Is anybody there? Does anybody care?. Does anybody see, what I see?
When I hear clueless ignorant wingnuts, in their opposition to marriage equality say; "Same sex couples can draft contracts that give them the same rights as everybody else. We don't need to repeal DOMA, it's hard not to throw things at the t.v. Same sex couples in the U.S. are anything BUT equal.
So unless President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party suddenly grow a spine and decide to keep all those wonderful promises about equality they made back in 2008, I am am stuck choosing between love or country. After years of a trying to make a long distance relationship work, the choice has been made very clear. So as I waved my American Flag in Central London yesterday, I was all the while acutely aware of what I must do to have those inalienable rights to "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." Country must lose.
Happy Independence Day everyone.
Dave & Eric.