What’s In a Name?

Chico writer Alexa Valavanis wrote the following column in response to the Aug. 4, 2010 ruling by a federal judge overturning California’s gay-marriage ban.

AlexaPark_300_250by Alexa Valavanis

Judge Vaughn Walker doesn’t know my name. I’ve never written him a letter or rang his smart phone. We’re not colleagues or acquaintances or even Facebook “friends.” In fact, there’s a strong possibility the judge and I would defy the theory of “six degrees of separation.”

Which is a long way of saying the chief judge of the U.S. District Court in California, nominated by George H.W. Bush, doesn’t know anything about me. He doesn’t know I value my family and faith above all else. He doesn’t know how deeply I cherish being an American and the individual rights and freedoms both of my grandfathers fought for.

If Judge Vaughn Walker doesn’t know those things, he couldn’t possibly know I would be a loving wife and mother. The kind of wife who will listen and be patient. The kind of mom who will lift her children up to reach life’s joys or hold them close when life hurts. He couldn’t know I’ll teach my children to trust, to be generous and to see the good in things. Nor could he know I’ll do my best to love them unconditionally just as my mother and father have loved me. How could he know I’ll be the grandmother with warm cookies always waiting?

But Judge Walker doesn’t need to know about me. There is no reason for him to know my name. Nor do the thousands of people who have fought for marriage equality in the United States need to know it. They know something far more important — that the rights of American citizens are not determined by a majority vote. They know that under our state and federal constitutions citizens are equal regardless of our leaders, our majorities’ or our minorities’ preferences. Our internal and external differences do not dictate our civil rights in America, and they know that, too.

Today I want to make this pledge to Judge Walker and all those who have fought for marriage equality. I am not making it because they’ve asked or even want me to. It’s not because I think it is their business or anyone else’s business whom I love or create a family with. I make this pledge simply because it is the best way I can think of to say THANK YOU.

I pledge:

  • To be a loving and loyal wife.
  • To be a wonderful mother.
  • To be a kind grandmother.
  • To value above all else my faith and my family.

History has shown us that this battle for equal rights will be won. However painful, however long, there will be a time when being gay or straight no longer has a bearing on the state and federal rights bestowed on American citizens.

If I am here to see that day I will crawl back into my mind to these darker times and remember the thousands of gay and straight people, of every color and faith and political view, who fought to ensure that in our great nation, separate would never again be considered equal.

I will pull the hot chocolate-chip cookies out of the oven and share with my grandchildren a story about an America that didn’t always get it right at first, but did not stop until it was so.

Then, I will tell them Judge Vaughn Walker’s name and make them promise to remember.

Alexa Valavanis is CEO and President of North Valley Community Foundation and the author of the popular book Sipping Tea with Buddha and Christ. She is a mother and wife who lives on a small Northern California ranch with goats, chickens, a pair of cats and a dog.

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