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George Takei and Brad Altman Become Spouses for Life

Pacific Citizen, News feature, Lynda Lin, Associate Editor Posted: Sep 28, 2008

On Sunday, September 14, George Takei and Brad Altman became husband and husband.

As tradition at many weddings, tears sprung from jubilant eyes while the couple exchanged personal vows and rings made of Native American turquoise - a nod to Brad's hometown of Phoenix, Ariz. The rings symbolized their enduring love and one perfect moment in time during their long love affair when the couple finally stood equal to other married couples under the law.

With former "Star Trek" stars, a senior senator from Hawaii and 200 guests looking on, they celebrated their legal union with a kiss, some confetti poppers and a bagpiper.

It's an enormous moment for any couple, but for George, 71, and Brad, 54, it's the culmination of a 21-year journey filled with good times and bad, made all the more sweet simply because now they can. Thanks to the May 15 Calif. Supreme Court decision to uphold same-sex marriage, George and Brad can call each other "husband" or "spouse."

But they need to get through the wedding first. Days before the momentous occasion, the couple met with the Pacific Citizen at their wedding venue, the Democracy Forum across the way from the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles' Little Tokyo.

And as custom may hold, at least one of the two is a bundle of nerves
Brad confesses to having pre-wedding anxieties. He has nightmares that no one is going to show up. The pressure to write heartfelt vows nearly makes him break out into a cold sweat. And he fears that he'll forget to bring the rings.

George is not shaken.

"I work in the theater. I know how to deal with it. We'll borrow people's wedding rings ... or we can even fake it if there were that aesthetic distance. We'll just, you know, stand like this," said George while turning his back to rows of empty seats in the Democracy Forum.

"And then at the reception, we'll just kind of stand like this," he clasps his right hand tightly over his left one and laughs.

Brad does the same. "It's much too personal to show right now."

Just Like Any Other Love Story

Their relationship has always been underscored with humor.

George, the actor best known for playing Hikaru Sulu on the "Star Trek" television and film series, first met Brad over two decades ago when they were both members of a running club. They started off as friends, but then love blossomed.

"It's just like any love story," said Brad.

At the time George, who was on the board of the Los Angeles Theater Center, needed help organizing a theater party so he asked Brad to be his assistant.

"He's a good record keeper and he's very organized. Well, I've discovered. At first I asked him to be my assistant for other reasons," said George, laughing.

They also both loved the theater. Brad was struck with George's intellect and broad vocabulary. Once, early in their courtship, they were walking around the Silver Lake Reservoir and taking in the scenery when George turned to Brad and in his baritone voice described the hills in the background as undulating.

"Undulating ... I mean how often does someone use that?" said Brad.

George's first impression of Brad was much more superficial. "For me it was his legs and his svelte running physique."

For a long time, George said he was leading a secretive personal life because of his very public career. But in 2005, his public and private life intersected when both houses of the Calif. legislature passed a same-sex marriage bill, which Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed.

Two years later, the state legislature again passed a same-sex marriage bill, which swiftly received another veto stamp from the governor. That's when George and Brad knew they had to speak out.
"It was so near. All it needed was one human being's signature," said George about marriage equality. "One human being counts. I thought maybe I could be that one human being together with others to make that difference. We were one step away from equality in marriage and by taking the shroud off of my career I thought I could contribute something."

In 2006, George went on a nationwide speaking tour with Human Rights Campaign as an openly gay man. The political activist spent most of his childhood at the Rohwer and Tule Lake internment camps - a personal history that he says overlaps with the present day struggle for equal marriage rights.
"Just like when we were interned it was easier to intern us and characterize us as potential traitors and saboteurs because we've been stereotyped in movies and political cartoons. They didn't know us as human beings.

"And the same thing with gays and lesbians, we've been cartooned as the drag queens as extreme cartoonish figures. But you know, we're school teachers, we're bankers, we're football stars and Olympic swimmers."

The Threat of Proposition 8

In 20 years, society has made incredible shifts in favor of same-sex marriages. In May when the state Supreme Court upheld marriage equality, Brad proposed to George while watching the news coverage on television.

They've waited so long for this moment, but the couple is also mindful of the larger resonance of their union.

"It's the most momentous day in my life personally, but if you take a big picture look, it's the continuation of the struggle for civil liberties in the United States. It's something that isn't over yet," said Brad.

But like many other married same-sex couples in Calif., George's and Brad's future together is legally tenuous.

Over 1.1 million Californians signed petitions to place Proposition 8 on the November ballot. If passed, Proposition 8 would change the Calif. Constitution to restrict marriage rights.

"For the first time, it would provide an exception to the equal protection clause," said Jennifer Pizer, senior counsel at Lambda Legal, a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people.

Proposition 8 contains similar wording that was previously approved in 2000 by over 61 percent of voters, that only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid in California.

"That poses a question that everyone should think hard about: What purpose does an equal protection clause have if it only protects the majority? If it only protects those who don't need it?" said Pizer.

The basis of the arguments against same-sex marriage is prejudice, fear and ignorance, said National JACL President Larry Oda. "We bore the brunt of these same opinions when we were interned during World War II."

At one time, Asian Pacific Americans were also denied equal marriage rights because of anti-miscegenation laws. Until the 1967 Loving v. Virginia decision when the nation's highest court struck down the laws, people of different races could not legally marry.

In 1994, the JACL was only the second non-LGBT national organization to support same-sex marriage. Today, the JACL continues to reaffirm its position from the district and chapter levels.

The Pacific Southwest District is currently working with API-Equality to help maintain the equal right to marry.

"Marriage is an institution not a feeling, people need to start feeling and understanding that it's okay to like and love whomever you choose," said Craig Ishii, PSW regional director.

"We want Prop 8 to be defeated in November," said Brad.

If images of their wedding help people see the reality of two people who just simply love each other celebrating their lifelong commitment maybe it will help change people's minds.

So they will continue to push their love into the spotlight if it means equality for all.

The difference is now they will be able to call each other spouses for life.

The Pacific Citizen Web site gives you a sampling of the stories currently in the print edition of the P.C

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