Rep. Mark Takano, a California Democrat, lost his first congressional race by 17 points when he was outed in 1994. He ran again in 2012 and won by 18 points. Now he's especially excited to preside over weddings for his constituents after reading Justice Anthony Kennedy's "poetic" opinion on the Defense of Marriage Act.
The Advocate: How are you feeling on this historic day?
Rep. Mark Takano: I'm doing good, as I just said at the press conference, I feel every gay word I can think of.
I think that perfectly sums up how a lot of people are feeling right now. How do you think your constituents will react to the Supreme Court's rulings?
I think most of them have come around. I think we've always had a significant number of people in my district in favor of marriage. I believe that since Prop. 8 passed the people of my district overwhelmingly support the freedom to marry and support the advancement of justice, equality, and freedom.
Following the court's decision on the Voting Rights Act earlier this week, how did you feel as we were about to learn the results of the Prop. 8 and DOMA cases? Were you worried?
The VRA and the decision on sexual harassment and affirmative action were all grave disappointments. Certainly the court did not advance the principles of justice and equality in those cases. I believe what was at stake in both the Perry and Windsor cases was so stark that I believed that there was a majority on the court that would rule correctly in both cases, so I was hopeful. What really made me jubilant was the language of the Windsor case, the DOMA case. I taught high school English for 24 years. I always teach my students to appreciate the beauty of language and to write poetically. I've seen Justice Kennedy really reach for poetic language. He can be a really poetic writer. My one anxiety going into today was whether or not he would get stuck in the legalese of states' rights and federalism. Or whether he would reach for the poetry of the Constitution system and the Fourteenth Amendment with expansion on the Fifteenth amendment. He chose the latter — he chose to reach the more majestic in a language that advances liberty, justice, equality.
I read both decisions in full, and Kennedy's was certainly more easy to read. Roberts's Prop. 8 opinion was much more technical.
It was common sense [wording]. It clearly lays out the ways that LGBT people are harmed. He uses the word "humiliate," that DOMA humiliated the families, the children of same-sex couples. We associate the word "humiliation" with cruelty. We as Americans do our level best to avoid being cruel to one another, we're led out of a diverse nation to come together and learn how to live with one another in a way that elevates everyone and our way of life. We've tried mightily to renew and imagine — imagine anew what it means to be free, what it means to be fair. Each generation has to continually bring those principles out of the abstract and into real-life applications, and today the court got it right in a big way.
As a representative for California, what do you think the timeline is now that Prop. 8 has been remanded to the lower court?
What I called for, I said, you know, you clerks in California, start licensing today. Don't wait another second. Those people have been waiting. You go to the doors of the county clerk and you wave the decision in their face and say, "Hey! Issue that license today!" The other thing is, as a member of Congress, I am privileged to be able to solemnize marriages, and I'm looking forward to it. Just give me a call. You want to get married by a congressman? Give me a call. I would love to!
Whoa, that's true. You have magic marrying powers!
I know, it's like I'm going to get my little marriage wand. Bop you on the head and say, "By the power invested in me, I declare you married" with my little marriage wand.
Amazing. So after the decision came down, how did some of your colleagues react?
Well, Jerry Nadler of New York — several of us were gathered with the equality caucus right before the press conference. I think [Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi] wanted him to be at some other press conference later this evening. And he said, "No, I have to go back to Manhattan, there's going to be a huge rally there." And she says, "Oh, come on." And he said, "No, really, I have to go to Manhattan. Edie Windsor is one of my constituents."
How do you think Americans in general will react to this opinion?
As Jerry Nadler rightly pointed out, I said the SCOTUS didn't impose this decision upon the American people, it really ratified the hearts and minds of most Americans. That's why I think this decision will be honored. Lincoln said you really have to work at public sentiment. The fact that, for so many generations, ordinary, everyday Americans came out of the closet, and told their family and friends about who they are has laid the foundation for public sentiment to change. They got comfortable in their own skins to be able to share themselves with family and friends. This is where social change took place. This court just ratified and affirmed what has already taken place in every city, every little town. It's hard to be cruel to someone you know and love.