Observing Passover

Last night was the end of Passover. This year I stuck to the holiday’s dietary laws more closely than I had in a long time: no bread or other products with leavened flour, no corn or rice or oats. (So much for my morning oatmeal.) I did eat beans, and we had a container of eggplant spread that apparently contained breadcrumbs, although I couldn’t detect them. But this was the most strictly I’d followed the laws of Passover in many years.

I think it’s because we hosted our first seder this year. It was small, just me and Matt and my immediate family, but it made me more aware of the holiday than usual. Even though I don’t believe in God, I’m still Jewish, and it was nice to be reminded of the cultural traditions in which I grew up.

Of course, the best part of following the Passover laws is the end of Passover. I had a burger last night on a bun. I had oatmeal for breakfast. I had a sandwich on a bagel for lunch today.

Delayed gratification never tasted so good.

 

Thoughts on the “How I Met Your Mother” Finale

Sometimes you just connect with a TV show. Something about it just works for you, even if it’s not always perfect, even if it sometimes frustrates you. It just clicks for you. There are only three or four TV shows in the last decade that I’ve really loved like that. Lost, Mad Men, maybe The West Wing… and How I Met Your Mother.

In fact, there’s no show I’ve ever watched from beginning to end as long as How I Met Your Mother.

It seemed promising even before it premiered: a sitcom featuring an endearing Buffy alum, a former child star and theater performer who was rumored to be gay, a cult TV actor — and a cool storytelling gimmick to boot? Sign me up.

It hooked me from the start. Unlike other sitcoms, it was unabashedly heartfelt and sincere, with a romantic, idealistic main character — who, refreshingly, was a man. The unconventional, witty flashback narrative structure, the quick scene cuts, the Lost-like mini-mysteries… it all pulled me in. Not to mention the infectiously catchy theme music.

Surely it would be canceled, just like every other quirky show that was too good for TV, like Wonderfalls. In the first few years it was always on the bubble. But miraculously, it survived — for a whole season, then two seasons, then three, and eventually, improbably, it became a hit.

In later years it went downhill. Barney went from endearingly irritating to repellent, Ted got pompous, the plots got ridiculous, the jokes got crude. Ted fell for an annoying environmental activist. I never cared about Barney and Robin as a couple.

But even when I didn’t like the show, I still loved it. It was still special to me. I still loved Ted and Marshall and Lily. There were still inventive episodes and moments that made me laugh. Never for a moment did I consider giving it up. It made me look forward to Monday nights. (It was the rare long-running show that aired the same night during its entire run.)

And then… last night.

This entire final season was problematic and misconceived from the start. The writers brought in the wonderful Cristin Milioti at the very end of last season, only to almost completely waste her. After eight years of buildup, there was no way the mother could live up to the hype — but miraculously, she did. She lived up to all expectations. She was perfect casting, the perfect match for Ted. Her few scenes with Josh Radnor were magnetic. How often does something actually succeed like that? Their scenes were tantalizing hints of the season that could have been.

But instead the writers squandered this terrific gift they’d been given, all in the service of a rigid, preconceived, off-key ending, not to mention an interminable season-long wedding weekend for a couple that, after all the buildup, got divorced in the very next episode.

Up until the ending, I actually enjoyed the finale. It was a nice tribute, with lots of callbacks to various running jokes over the course of the series. As we saw the characters’ future lives, I felt happy that we didn’t really have to say goodbye to them, reassured that they’d continue on without us. There were a couple of moments that got me teary: Robin and Lily arguing in the eerily empty apartment, Marshall telling the young guys at MacLaren’s about what a special place that bar was.

Barney and Robin’s divorce was shocking, but I went with it. But then — Barney getting a woman pregnant? Maybe it was supposed to be ironic that after years of consequence-free sex, he finally had A Consequence, but it seemed inconsistent with the spirit of the show: he never got an STD, but he got someone pregnant? (And his announcement of impending fatherhood — that would have been a better moment for Marshall’s Final Slap.)  His emotional breakdown in front of his new baby daughter was sweet, but too sudden and rushed for me. And we never see the baby’s mother?

And Ted. Are we really supposed to believe that Ted Mosby, the crazy hopeless romantic, would put off marrying the love of his life for five years? That he wouldn’t immediately marry her upon learning she was pregnant?

And then — just as had been hinted at — we learned that she was sick. I hoped it wouldn’t happen, but it did, and it hit me in the gut. Right then I broke into sniffles and tears and little stifled sobs. I was so sad that I had trouble focusing on their very first conversation in the next scene.

And then, insult to injury. Instead of getting to mourn this wonderful woman whom we’ve been conditioned over the last nine years to adore and idolize and worship — because our protagonist kept telling us how wonderful she was — we see her just tossed aside, and suddenly the kids and Ted are all in love with… the emotionally immature Robin? Seriously?

Yes, the characters had six years to mourn and accept the mother’s death and move on. But we didn’t. It was jolting, tone-deaf and cruel. Yes, it’s just a TV show, but it was cruel. I can’t imagine how much worse it would have been if they hadn’t hinted at her death a few weeks ago.

I guess this worked on paper. And given these characters and their history, I can see how it could have ended this way. But it didn’t feel real. TV characters are different from characters on paper. They’re played by flesh-and-blood human beings, actors who either have chemistry or don’t. Whatever chemistry Ted and Robin might have had early in the series (and they had some) had long dissipated over years of drawn-out plot points and character developments. Ted and Tracy – they had the real thing. Alan Sepinwall has the best analysis I’ve read of the finale so far: the writers should have seen what was organically happening, adjusted their plans, and gone with it. Instead they gave us an ending that was an emotional betrayal. Fan-service pandering is lame, but giving your audience a huge middle finger is worse.

This all might sound overwrought. I know it’s just a TV show. But it’s a show I cared about, with characters I cared about, for nine years.

Somewhere in an alternate universe, someone has recut this season and deleted some scenes near the end. Robin finds love and happiness with a great guy. Ted marries Tracy, and they grow old together.

In my dreams, I guess.

On Rod Dreher and the Futility of Arguing

I read something like this about same-sex marriage and my mind just boggles:

Civilization was made possible by controlling and channeling sexual desire, and harnessing it to a framework that makes for stable communities. My side believes that the liberation of sexual desire that this culture has embraced, and the obliteration of the traditional family as the ideal, will in time have devastating consequences for us all. There is no institution more important to conserve than the family. As has been widely acknowledged by our side, heterosexuals have done a terrible job of living out our convictions. Even we Christians have internalized the Sexual Revolution to an appalling degree. Nevertheless, normalizing SSM really is the Rubicon on all this, because from our point of view, it fundamentally changes the definition of marriage and the family, and with it, definitively topples the cultural authority of Christianity, which was the basis for Western civilization after the fall of Rome. That’s not nothing. This matters. 

How does one even begin to argue with someone, like Rod Dreher, who thinks this way? I guess you can’t. Logic doesn’t work, because a person’s beliefs are a product of one’s own psychology, one’s own biochemistry, one’s own history, and those are deep-rooted and powerful things. It’s like thinking all you need to do is repair a patch in the ceiling, and realizing you actually need to tear the whole house down to fix the problem.

Anyway, to counter Dreher: he really thinks that letting five percent of the population get married is what will “topple the cultural authority of Christianity”? Does he not realize that centuries of epochal change in our understanding of the universe and ourselves have already toppled it? Galileo, Newton, evolution, the germ theory of disease, Freud, brain science, the whole scientific revolution — no, apparently gay marriage is the Rubicon, the final straw.

Seriously?

I don’t understand how someone who is intelligent can think this way. It’s not like Dreher is some rube who can’t string sentences together. He can obviously write and he’s obviously smart. But his world view is so thoroughly different from my own that I wouldn’t even know how to begin to convince him.

I used to think logical argument could be enough to change people’s minds. Eventually I learned that it doesn’t always work.

It’s discouraging. But I guess we just have to work around people like him.

The Next Marriage Debate

We seem to have moved into a new phase of the marriage equality movement. Gay couples will probably be able to marry nationwide by the end of this decade, perhaps even before Obama leaves office. The people arguing for public discrimination — that is, discrimination by the government — have repeatedly lost in court; there have been no anti-equality court decisions since the Supreme Court overturned DOMA section 3 in U.S. v. Windsor last summer.

Having lost the debate over public discrimination, opponents of equality have moved on — or retreated — to arguing for the right to private discrimination, couched as “religious liberty”: the right of bakers, photographers, florists, and so on, to refuse to provide services for same-sex weddings. First the opponents feared that churches would be forced to marry gay couples, but most of them soon realized this was ridiculous, since the First Amendment prevents the government from forcing churches to perform particular religious services. So they moved on from defending religious institutions to defending businesses owned by religious individuals.

That’s a murkier issue. Whether private businesses have the right to discriminate is something on which I haven’t completely made up my mind. My gut and my heart firmly oppose such discrimination; I don’t see why a private business has any more right to discriminate against gay couples than it has the right to discriminate against a particular race. If you choose to enter the public marketplace, you must play by public rules. Adults should know that they can’t always do what they want. It’s the price for being a member of society.

But part of me can see the other side. Photography and baking and flower arranging are not just business practices; they are also forms of artistic, personal expression, expressions of one’s selfhood. And if someone really, truly opposes gay weddings, should we make that person take part in such a wedding?

It would be a simple question if the only issue were liberty. The photographer’s liberty is at stake here; the gay couple’s is not. A photographer’s refusal to take pictures doesn’t affect the gay couple’s freedom to get married. It does affect the photographer’s freedom to choose clients. If liberty is the only issue, the photographer should be able to say no.

But liberty is not the only issue. Equality is important, too. Liberty and equality are both cherished American principles, but they often conflict. When it comes to race, we realize this. Few people except Rand Paul these days would publicly defend the freedom of businesses to deny service to blacks. We believe that people should be treated equally in marketplace.

Why do some of us, even some of us who are gay, struggle more with the right to deny service to gay couples? Is it internalized homophobia? Are we too used to walking on eggshells? Are we trying too hard to be magnanimous, generous, taking too much care not to offend others, even those who spent decades opposing our human rights?

All I know is, it’s a harder question than the simple one of whether we should be free to marry. But that doesn’t mean the question isn’t answerable.

It’s okay for a healthy democracy to discuss these things. In a way, it makes me happy, because it’s just another sign that we’ve already won.

Thoughts About Hobbies

I’d love some insight from my readers on something. (Those who are still out there, anyway.)

I’m obsesed over whether I’m good enough for my hobby. I don’t know if I can clearly put all of this into words, but I’ll try.

My interest around this time of year is film – probably because it’s awards season and this is when most of the good films come out. But I don’t want to see just the Oscar nominees. I want to become a film expert. I want to know all the good and great films of the past. I want to read books about what makes a film great, I want to see all the great films, I want to be able to write about them. Especially older films – silents; black and white films from the golden age of Hollywood; foreign filmmakers; the great films of the 1970s; and so on.

And yet I don’t seem to have the patience for it. Sometimes it’s hard to sit down for 90-120 minutes or longer and immerse myself in a movie. After about 90 minutes, I get the urge to look at my watch. I’m sometimes annoyed to see that less time has gone by than I’d thought.

It can be especially hard to watch more than one movie a day. Especially if, instead of sitting in a movie theater, I’m at home and there are other distractions. Watching a movie at home, I’m a lot more tempted to bring up the progress bar and see how much of the movie is left.

And I fear this means I’m not good enough to have this as a hobby. I’m not good enough to belong in the elite club of movie people. The real experts are telling me: “Give it up and find another interest, and leave film-watching to those of us who actually love it. You obviously don’t love it as much as we do. This obviously isn’t your calling and you should find something else.”

Okay, but I still like it and for some reason I still keep wanting to try.

My therapist tells me it’s okay to not purely enjoy a hobby. He says it can be healthy to engage with an interest rather than just enjoy an interest. Engaging with it means there is some challenge or work involved, rather than just pure pleasure. And that’s okay.

But I still feel like true movie people never look at their watches, they love nothing better than sitting in a dark theater for three hours and immersing themselves in the screen, even two or three times a day, that for them it’s no challenge. And therefore, unlike them, I’m never going to make anything of this hobby and I should just go find something else.

Why do I have to “make anything” of it? Why can’t it just be a hobby? Because I need something in my life that can be more than just a hobby. I want something I can pursue with dedication. I don’t have that in my career. I don’t have it in any other area of my life. I want to dedicate myself to something.

But in addition to fearing I’m not cut out for it, there’s another problem: I don’t like the feeling of obsession. I’m very uncomfortable with falling down a rabbit hole and losing sight of everything else in the world. The internet made that seem abnormal anyway, because it’s so much easier to tweet and click and multitask, and my brain is forgetting what it’s like to singlemindedly focus on something. So dedicating yourself to something feels weird.

Matt has no problem sitting down and working on his website for several hours at a stretch. I want to be able to dedicate that amount of time to something as well, without feeling weird about it.

And I’m afraid of people telling me I’m weird and obsessed, and I’m afraid my strong interest in it will annoy them. I myself get irritated when someone else is obsessed with something I’m not obsessed with. But aren’t all happy people weird in some way? Aren’t all happy people kind of obsessed with something? Why do I worry so much about what other people might think? And more importantly, how do I make that worry go away?

I’d love any insight any of you might have on all of this. Often when you write about your thoughts online, nobody responds, and it just makes you feel alone. So if you have anything at all to say, I’d really appreciate it.

The Day Before the Oscar Nominations

The Oscar nominations come out tomorrow morning. Last year, for the first time, I decided to see all 53 nominated films — everything, in every category, including documentaries (full-length and short), animated films (full-length and short), foreign films, costume nominees, makeup nominees. It was stressful as hell, partly because I tend to make things stressful when they don’t need to be. I would lie in bed at night, worrying about how many films I had left and how many days were left to see them.

I didn’t start out planning to see everything. It just sort of happened. In the past, I hadn’t even made a concerted effort to see all the Best Picture nominees. But last year I decided to do that, and it gradually grew from there until I realized it seemed possible to see everything.

Here’s the chart I made and used last year to keep tabs on everything I saw. At the bottom of the page is the calendar of what I saw and when.

I saw some good films I wouldn’t otherwise have seen. In documentaries, I got to see The Invisible War, Searching for Sugarman, and The Gatekeepers, but I also had to sit through 5 Broken Cameras. The only foreign film nominee I really liked was Amour, which I would have seen anyway because it was also nominated for Best Picture. A Royal Affair was entertaining but a potboiler, and I didn’t get much out of the other three.

I’ve decided I’m not doing it again this year. I will try to see all the major nominees, and all the good nominees, and I’m going to keep track of what I’ve seen and what I haven’t. But I’m not going to see Bad Grandpa just because it gets nominated for Best Makeup, and I’m not going to sit through a movie just because it got nominated for Best Original Song. I don’t care about predicting winners or competing in an Oscar pool; I just like seeing great movies. But just because something gets an Oscar nomination in a minor category doesn’t mean it’s one of the best movies of the year.

So, I’m not doing it again.

Of course, I say that now. We’ll see how I feel in a month.

Books I Read in 2013

Here’s a list of books I read in 2013, in chronological order. Pretty much just nonfiction, as usual. Actually, a couple of weeks ago I started reading The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt’s new novel (I really enjoyed The Secret History way back when), but for some reason fiction never absorbs me anymore, and instead I found myself pulled into a biography of Alfred Hitchcock.

Anyway, here’s what I read in 2013, starting in January. (Here is last year’s list.)

  • The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy, David Nasaw (started at end of 2012)
  • The Eve of Destruction: How 1965 Transformed America, James T. Patterson
  • George F. Kennan: An American Life, John Lewis Gaddis
  • The Big Screen: The Story of the Movies, David Thomson (first third or so)
  • Inferno: The World at War, 1939-1945, Max Hastings
  • Communism: A History, Richard Pipes
  • Ancient Philosophy: A New History of Western Philosophy, Volume 1, Anthony Kenny (almost finished)
  • On Politics: A History of Political Thought: From Herodotus to the Present, Alan Ryan (2 vols.)
  • Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815, Gordon S. Wood
  • The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, Eric Foner
  • Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865, James Oakes
  • The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England, Dan Jones
  • The Norman Conquest: The Battle of Hastings and the Fall of Anglo-Saxon England, Marc Morris
  • Foundation: The History of England from Its Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors, Peter Ackroyd
  • Tudors: The History of England from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I, Peter Ackroyd
  • Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Vincent Bugliosi (all except first part, which I’d previously read)
  • The Kennedy Half-Century: The Presidency, Assassination, and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy, Larry J. Sabato
  • Ike and Dick: Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage, Jeffrey Frank
  • (Passage of Power – reread various parts of it – intro, JFK assassination, transition)
  • The Hidden White House: Harry Truman and the Reconstruction of America’s Most Famous Residence, Robert Klara
  • Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House, Peter Baker
  • The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America, George Packer

Text of our Wedding Ceremony

Here is the text of our wedding ceremony, which took place in Sakura Park in Manhattan on Friday morning. It was performed by Dan Epstein in the presence of our families. Dan sent us the text of some ceremonies he had used in the past, and we took some stuff out and added some of our own touches to create a ceremony that spoke to us.

I discovered beforehand that the introductory quote, provided by Dan, has actually been misattributed to Dr. Seuss over the years and is really from Robert Fulghum. But Dan said “Dr. Seuss” sets a better atmosphere, so we kept it that way.

* * * * *

Introduction

According to Dr. Seuss:

“We are all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness and call it love.”

This past June, the United States Supreme Court granted federal recognition of marriages of same-sex couples. This is a quote from Edie Windsor, the plaintiff in that case:

“I ask all gay couples who have lived together a long time and got married, ‘Was it different the next morning?’ And everybody says yes, and they don’t know how to explain it. Marriage itself, you know, it’s a magic word, everybody knows what it means, it means love and commitment and trust… but there’s this extra thing when it was always denied to you. But it’s profound. Whatever loving was there, it becomes really profound loving.”

Reading

Life isn’t measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the number of loving moments that take our breath away.

You can have those moments. You just have to get over the jitters and let the dreams show you the way. Tie your kite to reality… check your gut whenever it says “hey, wait”… take action when the time is right… remember and treasure what life shows you… but don’t ever stand in the way of what you really love. As far as we can tell, dreams are nothing more than love trying to take wing and soar. Imagine for just a moment, the thrilling, distracting, wonderful, odd, unusual sensation of new love. You immediately begin dreaming of life together… of where you will go… of what life will mean for the two of you. Live in that moment every day. Fall in love with new ideas, new opportunities, and new places all the time. Trust it, live it, don’t say no to love or crush a dream that wants to live. It isn’t that hard to give yourself over to it. You just have to say yes to life and love. Love will never lead you astray.

Jeff and Matt, before you are joined together in marriage, in my presence, and in the presence of these witnesses, I will remind you of the serious and binding nature of this relationship. The traditional right of marriage, as most of us understand it, is the voluntary, deliberate, and full commitment of two individuals to one another to become partners for a lifetime. Jeff and Matt, have you come here freely and without reservation to enter into this marriage?

[Jeff and Matt] We have!

Great! Then let us begin the celebration of love and life!

Welcome to the guests

We welcome you, the families of Jeff and Matt, who have come to share this wonderful morning. Nothing is as hopeful, as joyous as a wedding. Getting married is the supreme act of trust; it is as much a union and a move of independence. It takes an absolute confidence in oneself to be able to give fully to another. This partnership is not new; it has been a journey of ten years.

In fact they met ten years ago on this very day, October 4, 2003. It seems that Jeff, living in Jersey City, and Matt living in Kirksville, Missouri, had discovered each other’s blogs, and had each been reading the other’s, commenting, and corresponding for a couple of years. When Matt moved to New York City in July of 2003 it was only a couple of months until they realized that this friendship rooted in an online correspondence should progress to meeting in person. So they got together for coffee…and a relationship developed from there. It means a lot to both of them that as their relationship progressed both sets of parents enthusiastically embraced it.

And so today is the beginning of a different journey for Jeff and Matt as a married couple. It is so meaningful that you can share this day with them as they make public the commitment which they have already made to each other in their hearts. For marriage is more than simply an agreement between two people; it is a chance for us to embrace them as a couple, as a family and as part of a larger community. They have been inspired by all of you. You have touched their lives in ways that have changed them forever.

Reading

Matt and Jeff are big Stephen Sondheim fans. Well, as Jeff says: “I’m a fan; Matt is a huge fan.”

Sondheim in his song, “Being Alive,” describes what it’s like to have someone important in your life:

Someone to hold you too close,
Someone to hurt you too deep,
Someone to sit in your chair,
To ruin your sleep…

Someone to need you too much,
Someone to know you too well,
Someone to pull you up short
And put you through hell…

Someone you have to let in,
Someone whose feelings you spare,
Someone who, like it or not,
Will want you to share
A little, a lot…

Ellen Pontac and Shelly Bailes, who have been together for nearly 40 years, married in 2008. Ellen said this:

“Being married changes not only the fact that you can say, ‘I’d like to introduce you to my [husband or] wife, but it changes the way you feel inside, and the way the world perceives you.”

The Asking

Jeff, do you take Matt to be your husband, to love, honor, cherish and keep for as long as you may live?

[Jeff] I do.

Matt, do you take Jeff to be your husband, to love, honor, cherish and keep for as long as you may live.

[Matt] I do.

The Vows

[Jeff]

I, Jeff, take you, Matt, to be my husband.

I promise to share your joys when you are happy,

to lift your spirits when you are down,

to laugh with you and cry with you,

and to love you in good times and bad.

I give you my hand, my heart, and my love, from this day forward.

[Matt]

I, Matt, take you, Jeff, to be my husband.

I promise to share your joys when you are happy,

to lift your spirits when you are down,

to laugh with you and cry with you,

and to love you in good times and bad.

I give you my hand, my heart, and my love, from this day forward.

The Ring Exchange

May we have the rings please?

Matt, as a token of your promise to Jeff, place the ring on the fourth finger of his left hand and repeat after me:

Jeff, I give you this ring as a symbol of my love and commitment and as a token of the promises I have made here today.

Jeff, as a token of your promise to Matt, place the ring on the fourth finger of his left hand and repeat after me:

Matt, I give you this ring as a symbol of my love and commitment and as a token of the promises I have made here today.

In his Supreme Court opinion this past June, Justice Kennedy described marriage as

“a far-reaching legal acknowledgment of the intimate relationship between two people, a relationship deemed by the State worthy of dignity in the community equal with all other marriages. It reflects both the community’s considered perspective on the historical roots of the institution of marriage and its evolving understanding of the meaning of equality.”

Pronouncement

Jeff and Matt, you have proclaimed your love for one another. You have agreed to share your lives and hopes and dreams together. In this circle of community, in this embrace of spirit, you have created a union marked by taking vows and exchanging rings. As a civil celebrant, authorized by the state of New York, it is my honor and my joy to pronounce you married.

You may kiss!

Final Reading

Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be the shelter for the other.
Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other.
Now there will be no loneliness, for each of you will be companion to the other.
Now you are two persons, but there is only one life before you.
May beauty surround you both in the journey ahead and through all your years
May happiness be your companion and your days together be good and long upon the earth.

[Followed by the ceremonial breaking of a glass]

Almost Married

At long last, this Friday, October 4, Matt and I are getting married. It will be the tenth anniversary of our first date.

Matt and I were aware of each other for quite a while before we first met in person. For a couple of years we read each other’s blogs. Matt was living in Kirksville, Missouri, and I was living up here in the New York area. The gay blogging circle was pretty small back then in 2001, small enough that most LGBT bloggers were aware of each other. Then, in the summer of 2003, Matt moved up to New York to take a job, and after a couple of months we decided we should finally meet in person, since we were living in the same area. So we got together for coffee at the Starbucks at Astor Place in Manhattan. It was Saturday, October 4, 2003.

Technically it wasn’t a date; it was just a meetup. But I thought Matt was cute, and more importantly, I felt immediately comfortable with him. I remember that he pulled out his phone and started showing me something cool on it, and there was something so cute and charming about his enthusiasm for gadgets. I just found him really appealing. We just kind of clicked.

After we left Starbucks, we walked around for a while, and then we parted ways but planned to meet up again soon. We had our first real “date” the following week. But we’ve always considered that first meetup to be our first date in retrospect, and we’ve always celebrated it as our anniversary. So we thought it would be special to get married on the same day. (It also means we get to keep the same anniversary, which is a nice benefit.)

Matt would have been happy to just go down to the Manhattan Marriage Bureau and get married by ourselves. But I wanted something a bit more celebratory. So we’re doing something in between: a small ceremony in the park with just our families, and then a somewhat larger party that night, although still not big by most wedding standards (though Matt might beg to differ). The wedding planning has made me very anxious over the last few weeks — I’ve been worried about what could go wrong, worried about my sleep, and so on. The planning has been rather, er, hit or miss (pardon the pun), and it has kept changing over the last few months. Toward the end of last year we decided we’d get married in 2013, since we predicted the Supreme Court would overturn DOMA Section 3 and our taxes would be easier this year. We thought we’d do it this past spring, but we decided we needed more time to plan and that it would be nice to get married on our anniversary. I think it was last February that we settled on this date. Back then it seemed so far away. Now it’s almost here.

So ten years later, here we are. Matt started as my online acquaintance, then became my friend, my boyfriend, and then my partner, and soon he’ll be my husband. We’ve both grown and changed a lot over the last decade, and we’ve learned a lot, too — about relationships, about ourselves about each other. Our relationship grows richer by the year.

It’s been a decade, but it’s just the beginning of our life together.

My Doppleganger Plus 50

We like to commemorate the half-century mark in our culture. It seems it’s always the 50th anniversary of something: next week is the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. In three months we’ll observe the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK. The very next day is the 50th anniversary of the premiere of Doctor Who.

The first 50th anniversary I remember was that of DC Comics in 1985, which released its first comic books in 1935. Since then, I’ve experienced numerous 50th anniversaries over the years.

It strikes me that there’s someone out there who was born exactly 50 years before me, at the very end of 1923, who is my “doppleganger-plus-50,” as it were. At the same age as I experienced the 50th anniversaries of various events, he lived through the actual events. He’s living a life parallel to mine, just shifted 50 years.

In 1985 I discovered comic books when DC Comics celebrated its 50th anniversary. I was 11 years old and reading Crisis on Infinite Earths, and Superman, and Batman. I fantasized about going back in time to the 1930s and buying now-rare comic books for a dime. When my double was that age, he might have read those actual comic books. He’d soon encounter Superman and “The Bat-Man” as they hit the market.

In 1987, the Lincoln Tunnel had its 50th anniversary. I was 13 or 14. I remember being in a car approaching the tunnel entrance around that time, on a gloomy, cloudy weekend afternoon, and noticing its Art Deco influences and thinking about the Depression. At the same age, my double was a young teenager living through the gloomy Depression itself, and Art Deco design was all over Manhattan.

Two years later, in 1989, the media covered the 50th anniversary of the German invasion of Poland that began World War II. I was 15, in high school. My double was 15 and hearing about the invasion on the radio.

On the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor in December 1991, I was 17 years old, in college, living a carefree life. We had a chorus concert that night. My double was 17 in 1941 and worried about being drafted and going to war.

I was 20 years old on the 50th anniversary of D-Day, in June 1994. I was still in college; a friend of mine and I were driving back to Charlottesville from an overnight road trip to Gettysburg, and we listened to coverage of Bill Clinton’s speech on the car radio. My double was 20 years old and might have been at war overseas.

Assuming he survived the war, my double came home, got married, and started a family in prosperous postwar America. At that age I was in law school in the prosperous late 1990s. He discovered television in his 20s, around the time I discovered the World Wide Web. At the start of 1950, he was 26, the same age as when I celebrated the year 2000. He grew older as the 1950s continued. He turned 30 in 1953. He raised children and saw them enter adolescence. On the night that Sputnik launched and “Leave It to Beaver” premiered (both on the same night, which was also Erev Yom Kippur!), he was 33. He was 37 when JFK was inaugurated; he was 38 when John Glenn orbited the Earth. I remember news coverage of the 50th anniversaries of all of these.

Now he is 39, almost 40, and it’s the late summer of 1963, and JFK will be assassinated in a few months. Shortly after he turns 40, the Beatles will hit America. Then there’ll be another war, along with a cultural and musical revolution, but he’ll be too old to get it. (He’s a couple of years older than Don Draper.) He’ll be 50 during Watergate, around the time when I’m born, and our lives will begin to overlap.

I like reading about anniversaries of news events and imagining how people experienced those events when they happened. Picturing my time-shifted doppleganger is a cool way to do it, because it helps put various events into a chronological context. Looking back on 1985 from 2013 is the same as looking back on 1935 from 1963.

And just over 10 years from now, a baby will be born, and I will be his time-shifted doppleganger. And the cycle will continue…

Back to the Future Part III Soundtrack Tracks in Order of Appearance

Warning: geekery ahead.

For some reason, the tracks on the soundtrack for Back to the Future Part III do not appear in the order in which they appear in the movie. They’re in movie order on the Part II soundtrack, but for some reason that’s not the case with Part III. I guess when they put together the Part III soundtrack, the producers thought the tracks sounded better in a different order.

But sometimes you just want to experience the movie through the music, and you want to hear the tracks in order. So I’ve managed (I think) to figure out the order in which the Part III tracks appear in the movie:

1 – Main Title
6 – Indians
3 – Hill Valley
4 – The Hanging
14 – We’re Out of Gas
12 – Doc to the Rescue
5 – At First Sight
17 – Doubleback
13 – The Kiss
10 – The Future Isn’t Written
7 – Goodbye Clara
15 – Wake Up Juice
11 – The Showdown
16 – A Science Experiment? (The Train Part I)
2 – It’s Clara (The Train Part II)
9 – Point of No Return (The Train Part III)
8 – Doc Returns
18 – End Credits

If you own the soundtrack, you can create a playlist of the tracks in the above order on iTunes or whatnot. Then you can just close your eyes and imagine your way from 1955 to 1885, and then back to good ol’ 1985.

I’m posting this in case anyone happens to Google the title of this post or something similar. I did my own Google search and couldn’t find anything.

This is How My Brain Works

I bought a Rubik’s Cube on Saturday, because we’re going on a Disney Cruise for our honeymoon.

What’s the connection, you ask?

On Saturday afternoon, we were talking about where to stay the night before our cruise. Our cruise sets sails from Port Canaveral in Florida, and we were thinking of staying in Cocoa Beach. Cocoa Beach made me think of “I Dream of Jeannie,” which is set in Cocoa Beach. I decided I need to hear the theme song, so I found it on YouTube. Then I thought about ”The Brady Bunch,” because “I Dream of Jeannie” overlapped with “The Brady Bunch” by one season. That made me think about “The Brady Brides,” the “Brady Bunch” sequel from 1981. Then I started to think about how weird the very early ’80s were, which made me think of Pac-Man, which made me think about the Rubik’s Cube, and I got caught in an online memory hole. I found virtual Rubik’s Cubes online, started reading about Rubik’s Cube solutions, and thought about how my solution book, The Simple Solution to Rubik’s Cube by James G. Nourse, got stolen when I was in third grade. I suddenly decided I wanted a real Rubik’s Cube. So I put on my shoes, walked a few blocks to the nearest toy store, and bought one.

I also found my old solution book online. (Ignore the green arrows – the whole book is on one page, just scroll down.)

Apparently Nourse’s method is the simplest, but not the shortest or most elegant. In third grade I couldn’t quite figure his method out, but on Saturday I did, and now it’s fun to solve the cube with the book’s help. But I’m interested in looking up more elegant methods now.

Oh, and we still need to book our hotel.

The Ender’s Game Boycott

I’m kind of puzzled by this New York Times piece calling the proposed “Ender’s Game” boycott misguided:

Generally, boycotts are used to pressure companies or governments to end objectionable activities; consider the boycott of Chick-fil-A to protest the chain’s financial support of antigay organizations. What Geeks Out has in mind is closer to blacklisting. The group wants to “send a clear and serious message to Card and those that do business with his brand of antigay activism — whatever he’s selling, we’re not buying.” This isn’t about stopping the dissemination of antigay sentiments; it’s about isolating Mr. Card and shaming his business partners, thus cutting into their profits.

If Mr. Card belongs in quarantine, who’s next? His views were fairly mainstream when the Sunstone article appeared and, unfortunately, are not unusual today.

Who’s next? How about any other vocal anti-gay extremist? Fine by me. As recently as 2008, Card called homosexuality a “sex-role dysfunction” and said that committed same-sex relationships are nothing more than homosexual liaisons and friendships.”

He’s not just against gay marriage. He’s blatantly anti-gay. Why should I give money to support this bigot?

I don’t see what’s wrong with refusing to give your money to a person or organization that espouses views you find odious. A boycott is completely voluntary. Nobody is forcing anyone to withhold their money from this movie, just as nobody can make me spend money on it. Individuals get to decide whether or not to support something with their cash. I felt the same way last year when the anti-gay organization One Million Moms encouraged a boycott of J.C. Penney after they hired Ellen DeGeneres as a spokesperson; I think they’re bigoted homophobes, but hey, I can’t tell then what to do as consumers. If they want to boycott, fine.

I tweeted at the writer of the piece, Juliet Lapidos, and she tweeted back:

I replied that I’m Jewish too and that I have no way of knowing whether I would have bought their books. I’m not sure how she can know either. You can never truly know what choices you would have made in a different time; you would have been raised in a different cultural atmosphere, living in a different world, holding different beliefs, and therefore you’d be a different person. You just can’t know.

Mark Harris of Entertainment Weekly had a nuanced piece last week about the boycott, including the following (boldface mine):

But should Card’s extremism lead moviegoers to boycott Ender’s Game, which, after all, has nothing to do with gay rights? As gay screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (Milk), who opposes a boycott, has noted, the film was made by a gay-friendly filmmaking team working for a company, Lionsgate, that has now publicly rejected his views. I can answer only for myself: I won’t pay to see the movie. I can’t get past the idea that my purchase of a ticket might put even an extra penny in the pocket of a man who thinks I should be treated as less than human; a hit film will increase sales of his books, and I want no part of it. Is that a boycott? It’s a personal choice, and a boycott is really nothing more than a network of people whose convictions lead them to the same personal choice. I understand the case that the art should be separated from the artist, and I have seen plenty of art by reprehensible people. But everybody gets to decide for themselves where they draw the line.

Lapidos says in her Times piece that the boycott could actually backfire by encouraging homophobes to see the movie, replacing one source of cash with another. That would be true if the boycott’s only purpose were to stop the movie. But a boycott can also inform. Will it force Card to change his views on gay people? Doubtful, but it’s already prompted him to respond, and Lionsgate (the film company) has also responded.

And many more people are now aware of Card’s views than before, so people can now make more informed choices. That sounds like a good thing to me.

The End of DOMA, and Being Haunted

When I was 11 or 12 years old I realized I had a terrible secret. I was attracted to other boys. I would develop these intense crushes: a handsome black-haired classmate in middle school, a kid at sleepaway camp the summer I was 12. I wasn’t sure what I was feeling; all I knew was that I felt it, and nobody else did. There was something wrong with me. I tried not to worry about it too much; I just hoped that it was temporary, and that at some point before I became an adult it would go away and I could be normal and get married. But I continued on through middle school and into high school, and it didn’t go away. I started to worry. I decided I must be cursed. My life already seemed bad enough: I was a nerdy, grade-skipping outcast, and yet not academically perfect enough to please my parents. And I hated my Jewish afro hair. On top of all that, why did there have to be this? Why did this alien presence choose to infect me and make me fall in love with boys?

It was the mid-/late 1980s. All I knew about gay people was that they got AIDS and went to hospitals where they wasted away and died. I remember once I heard my mom refer to someone derisively as a “frustrated homosexual.” And one day I came across a copy of a book called Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask). It was published in 1969, and it said horrible things about gay people. I didn’t want to turn out like the people in that book. I became even more terrified.

At 19 I told my parents I liked guys. They got mad and said it was not acceptable. So a couple of days later I went back in the closet, to them and to myself. Then I had five agonizing years of mental gymnastics as I tried to figure out what I was, until finally, at age 24, I decided, fuck this — it’s never going away, this is who I am, and I just want to be happy. So I stopped agonizing, accepted that I was gay, started dating and having sex, and the next year, at age 25, I told my parents that I was sure this time, that I really was gay. They were very upset for a few weeks. It was painful for me. But they eventually came around.

Since yesterday morning, when the Supreme Court struck down section 3 of DOMA, I’ve been thinking a lot about my past — mourning it, in fact. I’ve been wondering if I would have been a happier, less scared kid if I’d grown up in a country where gay people could get married, where I could have read an opinion by a justice of the United States Supreme Court recognizing the dignity not just of gay couples’ relationships but of gay couples’ marriages, where my country’s government treated those marriages with the same respect they treated my parents’ marriage and my aunt and uncle’s marriage and my grandparents’ marriage and the marriages of every other adult I knew. I wonder if my parents would have been more accepting of me if they’d raised me in that world. I wonder if they would have thrown away that old book. I wonder if I would have come out sooner, started dating sooner, had sex sooner, gotten more relationship experience sooner.

I’m so envious of gay kids today, and gay teenagers, and gay college students, and gay people in their 20s, for living in a different world from the one I grew up in, just as I’m sure many older gay men are envious of me for growing up post-Stonewall and coming of age in an era when the world knew already about HIV and how to protect ourselves from it. Just as every generation is envious of people who are younger than them.

I was already 22 and out of college when the Supreme Court first spoke up for gay rights in Romer v. Evans. I was already 29 when the Court first said in Lawrence v. Texas that I have dignity as a gay man. I was 37 when the state where I lived said I could get married. Now I’m 39, and I’m getting married to Matt in a few months, and my national government will treat us the same way they treat every other married couple.

In a way it feels very scary and “adult.” We’ve been able to get married for the last two years, but it always seemed like it would be somehow pretend, like playing at marriage: “skim-milk marriage,” as Justice Ginsburg wonderfully put it. But now we’ll be filing taxes jointly, and be eligible for spousal Social Security benefits, and have all the federal as well as state responsibilities of marriage, just like my parents, and my brother and his wife, and Matt’s parents, and all the straight married couples we know. Just like everyone else.

The Supreme Court’s decision yesterday was not the end. Thirty-seven states still tell gay couples they can’t get married. But we are closer to justice than we were yesterday. I see it as one of those pictures where your perception shifts between positive and negative space. Before yesterday, there were 12 islands of marriage equality in a vast sea. But now there are 37 islands of marriage discrimination. Now that the U.S. government recognizes same-sex marriages, the discriminatory states are the outliers, no matter how many there are. That shift in perception is crucial.

I’m happy I’m still young enough to live in this world. I’m happy I’m going to get married.

And I’m happy for all those gay kids who get to grow up in a different world from the one I grew up in.

Thoughts Before the Supreme Court Rules

Getting my thoughts down before the Supreme Court releases its decisions on DOMA and Prop 8 in just over an hour.

I slept badly last night. I fell asleep around 11:30, woke up around 3 a.m., took a four-hour sleeping pill but didn’t actually fall back asleep for another 40 minutes, then woke up again at 5:30. (So much for modern medicine.)

At least we know it’s coming this morning. That’s better than the last few days of watching and waiting.

It’s been a nutty 24 hours in American politics. The Voting Rights Act got eviscerated and Texas almost effectively outlawed abortion last night. I wish the United States were a normal country.

I feel a little selfish that I’m worried about DOMA when I have friends in California who can’t even get married in the first place. But Prop 8 is toast no matter what happens — if not now, then in the next couple of years via the ballot. Which is a long time to wait, but not as long as we’ll have to wait to get rid of DOMA if the Supreme Court does nothing about it this morning. The gerrymandered Republican House means that DOMA isn’t going away anytime in this decade without judicial intervention. A skim-milk marriage is better than no marriage — but we deserve full equality. I will be extremely sad if the Court lets DOMA stand.

The last day has reminded me that we live in a deeply flawed country in an imperfect world. But I still have hope that no matter what happens today, things will eventually turn out right. It will require work. But things will work out.

Still, Justices of the Supreme Court: do the right thing this morning.

Is Being Gay a Choice?

Today the Delaware Senate is debating marriage equality. According to Twitter, some anti-gay senator or witness brought up the old canard that being gay is a choice.

This is such an old, tired, beaten-to-death topic that it’s not even worth writing about. But I will.

First of all, shouldn’t we gay people be the prime authority as to whether being gay is a choice? We’ve said time and again that it’s not a choice. None of us chose to be gay; we just are gay. But apparently we can’t be trusted to know whether we actually chose it or not. Because we’re, I don’t know… mentally ill? Pathological liars? Brainwashed by imaginary gay central headquarters? Who knows. Even those who are professedly neutral and say things like “science is unclear on whether being gay is a choice” are insulting us. Is being gay a choice? Just freaking ask us. The answer is no.

I think the problem is one of language ambiguity. Being gay means, in most cases, “being exclusively (or almost exclusively) attracted to people of the same sex.” But some people mistakenly think that “being gay” means “having gay sex.”

I wouldn’t be surprised if many of these people are themselves fighting homosexual urges. They tell themselves that as long as they don’t act on their urges, they’re not gay. Therefore, in their universe, “being gay” only means “having gay sex.” Because if “being gay” means “being attracted to people of the same sex,” they’d have to admit that they were gay.

These are probably the same people who think that if society becomes more accepting of same-sex marriage, everyone is going to turn gay and get gay-married and nobody will reproduce anymore and the human population will die out. They think that everyone else has secret gay urges just like they do.

Finally: even if we defined “being gay” as “having gay sex,” and therefore “being gay” was a choice, so what? Religion is a choice. Fine, that’s specially protected by the First Amendment, so also: masturbation is a choice. Heterosexual sodomy is a choice. Extramarital sex is a choice. Who cares?

But it’s not a choice in the first place. I wish that canard would stop quacking already.

Too Much TV

I am just about fed up with television.

This article about how there is too much good TV resonated with me because it’s something I’ve been thinking about lately. These days I feel like I’m drowning in television. We bought an expander drive for our TiVo last fall; where previously our TiVo could hold 25 hours of TV, now it can hold something like 150 hours. We used to have make sure we watched stuff on the TiVo so we could make room for other things, but now we can just let stuff build up. This is good, but it’s also daunting to look at the TiVo screen and see how many shows are sitting on there, waiting to be watched.

And since there’s two of us at home, that means even more TV. Actually, I partially blame Matt for my viewing habits. (It’s OK; he already knows.) Back when I was single and lived alone, I didn’t watch much TV. There was time when I watched Buffy and Smallville; when I added on Angel, that felt like a lot. Matt was the one who introduced me to the TiVo; before I met him, I didn’t have a DVR.

I’m sure Matt would admit that he watches a lot more TV than I do. But Matt has also introduced me to shows over the years that I probably wouldn’t have sampled otherwise. Matt likes to check out new shows and see if they’re any good, so I do the same thing.  Back when I was not a big TV-watcher, I wouldn’t have done that.

Here are the shows I watch every week that I actually enjoy: How I Met Your Mother, The New Girl, The Mindy Project, The Middle, Modern Family, The Big Bang Theory, Community, Parks & Recreation, The Office, Happy Endings, Once Upon a Time, Mad Men (which is my favorite show of the last few years), and Doctor Who.

I feel like I’m forgetting some. I actually thought I watched more one-hour shows. I guess there’s Smash, which I don’t really like; I only watch it because my theater friends watch it. I’ve completely given up on Glee, which Matt still watches but which I now find terrible and can’t stand anymore. I’ve watched the first two episodes of Bates Motel, which is intriguing so far, but I haven’t decided if I’m going to stick with it. There’s also The Americans, which I like but is starting to accumulate on the DVR, because there’s just not enough time.

That’s partly because in addition to all of the above (except for Bates Motel), Matt watches Elementary, Castle, Bones, The Vampire Diaries, Arrow, Being Human, The Following, and Warehouse 13 (which is summer only). Also Suits. And this Nickelodeon show called House of Anubis which is on like every single day.

And let’s not forget other stuff we watch: NBC Nightly News, The Daily Show, Rachel Maddow, and Saturday Night Live. And The Simpsons, Family Guy, The Cleveland Show, and American Dad. And Archer, which I only half pay attention to. And The Regular Show, which is only 10 minutes so that’s okay. Oh, and Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated, which is a kind of funny and tongue-in-cheek iteration of the Scooby-Doo gang. And also Being Human, U.K. version. (I like the British version but not the American one.)

Thank goodness I gave up on Days of our Lives a few months ago.

Matt sometimes accuses me of taking a moralizing tone about his TV watching. I guess I kind of do. It’s just that I start to feel disgusting when I sit on the couch for too long watching TV. And I also feel like it keeps me from being social — although to be honest, I might be confusing cause and effect; I think it’s really low self-esteem that keeps me from being more social.

But I mean, we don’t just watch TV. We go to the theater a lot. And yet theater, like TV, is a passive form of entertainment. You’re sitting and watching something instead of connecting with other people socially.

That said, there are several TV shows I’d check out if there were only time. Game of Thrones, The Good Wife… OK, I can’t think of any others right now. I thought there were more.

But I really feel this anxiety about wasting away my life in front of a TV set.

What Happens After DOMA? (Cont’d.)

If anyone is interested in digging further into the post-DOMA issue I mentioned yesterday — whether the federal government would have to recognize a marrage validly performed in New York if the couple actually lives in Arizona — I found a law review article about it.

The article is long, as most law review articles are, but basically, the answer is: nobody yet knows how this would work.

The article goes deep into the weeds about conflict of laws. (Yay civil procedure!) In short, the author says that either Congress or the federal courts should make a uniform rule: either (1) the federal government should recognize a same-sex marriage if it was valid where performed, or (2) the federal government should recognize a same-sex marriage if it is valid where the couple currently lives.

Just because there would be confusion does not mean DOMA section 3 should not be overturned. Conflict-of-laws issues come up in family law all the time. And at any rate, there will be confusion as long some states refuse to recognize legal same-sex marriages performed in other states.

What Happens After DOMA?

Homer asked an interesting question about DOMA in the comments on my previous post:

If DOMA is tossed, will people who marry in New York and then return to Arizona have the same federal benefit rights as someone who marries and stays in New York?

I don’t think there’s a clear answer.

New York State doesn’t have a residency requirement for marriage. So any same-sex couple in the country can go to New York and get married. Or a same-sex couple who lives in New York, Massachusetts, Iowa, etc., could get married and then move to another state that doesn’t have marriage equality, for any of the many reasons that people move around: to take a new job, to care for an elderly parent back home, to live in a warmer climate, and so on.

So if DOMA Section 3 goes away, which married same-sex couples would federal recognition “attach” to, and when? Could it attach, and then later detach when the couple leaves the state? And then attach again when the couple goes back?

You could argue that once the couple gets married and federal benefits attach, they can never be taken away. It doesn’t seem quite fair otherwise. But you could also argue that since Arizona doesn’t recognize a New York same-sex marriage, and the federal government has to defer to the states, then federal benefits can detach once the couple permanently moves to Arizona. I don’t know. Or what if the couple lives in New York but owns property in Arizona, or say Florida? Would federal taxes apply to that property? What about inheritance?

I imagine the case would be clearer if a married same-sex couple is merely visiting a non-equality state, not moving there permanently, and some incident happens that involves a federal law. I can’t think of any examples, but there might be one.

It’s not just federal benefits we’re talking about, like tax breaks or Social Security or family leave. There are more than 1,100 rights and responsibilities that come with federal recognition of a marriage.

The law can be fractal sometimes. One big issue gets resolved, but other little issues come up in its wake. A future court would probably have to resolve these issues as they come up. That’s not a bad thing — it’s just how the law works. But it’s certainly interesting.

The DOMA Oral Arguments

When Matt and I get married this fall, will we just have a skim-milk marriage? Or will our country’s government treat us equally?

Today’s oral arguments in the DOMA case leave me cautiously optimistic — moreso than yesterday’s Prop 8 arguments. There seems to be a consensus among the experts that DOMA Section 3 is doomed, precisely and only because Justice Kennedy evidently believes that it violates the power of states to define marriage. Only four justices (Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan) appear willing to overturn it on grounds of equal protection; Kennedy would provide the crucial fifth vote.

Roberts and Scalia also brought up federalism, but in a curious way. They asked: if the federal government is not allowed to exclude same-sex couples from the federal definition of marriage, does that mean it’s not allowed to include them, either? Wouldn’t that, too, violate states’ rights to define marriage? And if it is okay for the federal government to include them, then why isn’t it okay for the federal government to exclude them?

It was an odd perversion of the principle of federalism. The answer to their question requires asking: what’s the point of federalism in the first place?

Federalism is usually seen not as an end in itself, but as a vehicle to protect individual liberty — usually, negative liberty (“freedom from X”). How does it violate principles of liberty for the federal government to extend federal marriage benefits to same-sex couples? In other words, how does that interfere with anybody’s rights? On the other hand, when the federal government withholds those benefits from same-sex couples, as it does right now, it restricts positive liberty. (More here.) Our government was structured in such a way as to further certain principles, but Scalia and Roberts sounded like they were more interested in sophistic thought games than in the real-life implications of DOMA on these principles.

I thought Roberts, for one, would be more skeptical of DOMA, and I’m kind of disappointed in him. I guess the health care got all of our hopes up.

Then there was Alito, who twisted the principle of equal protection. Alito raised concerns that getting rid of DOMA would itself cause equal protection problems: what if a surviving same-sex spouse in New York doesn’t have to pay estate taxes because New York recognizes same-sex marriage, but a spouse in North Carolina does, because North Carolina doesn’t recognize those marriages? Doesn’t that raise equal protection concerns, he asked?

The answer is: isn’t that North Carolina’s fault, because it doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, rather than the federal government’s fault, since the federal government just defers to state definitions of marriage? Why wouldn’t the remedy be to shield all surviving same-sex spouses nationwide from the estate tax, rather than make all of them pay it? It seems odd and cruel to say that it’s better not to provide benefits to any married same-sex couples rather than provide benefits to all of them. It basically holds couples who live in same-sex marriage states hostage to all the other states. How is that okay?

Despite Alito’s questions, I still see him as a possible vote to strike down DOMA. Maybe not very likely, but still possible.

Thomas, of course, said nothing. But I wonder if he, too, might strike down DOMA on federalism grounds. I’m not counting on it, but not totally ruling it out either.

So that leaves the four liberals plus Kennedy. States’ rights isn’t the reason I’d prefer for striking down DOMA, but I’d certainly take it.

And now the long three-month wait to see whether Matt and I get to have a whole-milk marriage.