Jul 16 2008

In May when at the GLAAD Dinner in San Francisco, Producer and Director Geoff Callan came up to me and gave me a copy of "Pursuit of Equality". This documentary film about the marriage equality revolution that took place in San Francisco in 2004 remained ignored on my table for two months. Boy, do I regret that decision. Home_image_2

In this year of struggle around the marriage equality issue and the ballot battles in California and Florida, this well done, amazingly powerful and emotional film is a "must see". Not only is "Pursuit of Equality" a splendidly crafted film, but it also has the real opportunity of being an important weapon in the battle in marriage equality. As much as I am personally involved in the fight for human rights for LGBT people I thought there was little left that could move me.

I was wrong.

Just a few weeks after being sworn in as Mayor in 2004, Gavin Newsom decided to issue marriage licences to same sex couples. Neither the Mayor nor the country could believe the numbers of couples who lined the streets outside City Hall waiting for the opportunity to embrace justice and finally, at long last, get married. From February 12 to March 11 of that year, over 4,000 couples were married at City Hall. On the last day the California Supreme Court not only halted the weddings but also invalidated the marriages that had taken place until the issue could be fully - and lawfully - considered. Now, as we know, the California Supreme Court has made full marriage legal in California as a result of this initial brave decision.

This documentary film brilliantly captures that period.

Geoff Callan (with co-director Mike Shaw) was the brother-in-law of Mayor Newsom and as a result had direct access to the behind closed doors meetings and deliberations that others might not have achieved. While, to my taste, a little over the top in its portrayal of Newsom, it is hard not to be filled with admiration and respect for him as he navigates his way through this historical three weeks. This personal angle greatly enhances this film.

But the real power lies with the thousands and thousands of American citizens whose stories are told. One participant in the Valentines Day Revolution in San Francisco said in the film, "This is our Selma" referring to the historic battle for human rights in Alabama in 1965 for African Americans. While it lacked the violence and horror of Selma, it does have the emotion of that moment, capturing the attention of the nation and changing forever the course of history in the struggle of LGBT rights.

Huge lines form outside City Hall populated with people from all walks of life, a torrential rainstorm beating down upon them. Yet not one person gets discouraged. Not a single couple leaves. We watch as people with children exchange vows and people who have been together for over fifty years finally see some justice. There was not a story in the film that did not move, educate or even make you cry. What a powerful moment to capture on film and the crew on this documentary indeed did capture it.

This is a film of heart and love and commitment. This is not a screed educating Americans about the over 1,000 rights, benefits and protections offered everyone except LGBT Americans through marriage. It is about being in love, respecting your partner and wanting that love acknowledged through marriage. As the lines enter City Hall, we witness a famously progressive city ready to embrace its citizens as well as all those who traveled from out of town. Chamber orchestras play for the couples as they exchange vows, people provide food and water to those in line, extra city workers cancel time off to help meet the demand and the media convey their bravery to the rest of the country.

In this battle year, I think the organizers ought to consider using this movie as an influential tool in the right places. House parties would seem a potent venue, where supporters could invite their friends and family into their homes to watch the film, which, in my opinion, would generate an immediate flurry of check-writing to the effort to defeat Proposition 8 in California. This film can motivate the committed to do more and take the uncommitted and make them volunteers.

You can get "Pursuit of Equality" by going to their website by clicking here.

Do it now.