Topher Payne: Bringing the fight for equality home

“So, what are you and your husband doing in the fight for marriage?” she asked.

“What are we doing?” I replied. “Well, we’re being married. Every day. It’s not so much a fight as a persistent demand that we be acknowledged for what we are.”

I thought that was a pretty decent response, considering it was off-the-cuff. But even as I said it, I felt a rumble in my stomach. All of my nerves are located in my belly. I’d be a terrible poker player. Every time I tried to bluff, I’d poot.

Anyway, my stomach growled in that particular moment because I didn’t have actual evidence on what we were doing to fight for marriage equality. I’d been working under the belief that being married and voting for Obama were sufficient. I don’t have time to march to various locations holding a poster or banner of some kind. Plus, I sunburn very easily. But activism takes many forms, and one does not have to take to the streets to participate in the fight.

The last few weeks have been extraordinary.

The president and vice president both endorsed marriage equality, after years of people asking each to clarify his position on the subject.

Mitt Romney then made his position against marriage equality abundantly clear, so now we know where everybody stands going into the election. Am I a single-issue voter? Nope. But I’m not voting for a candidate who has no respect for my marriage when there’s a viable candidate that supports it.

Plus, Mitt says his faith doesn’t allow him to endorse marriage equality. The conservatives and Evangelicals who support him all seem to be fine with that, because their chosen religion agrees with that particular view. But they’re forgetting: Mitt’s a Mormon. They believe some wacky stuff, diverging from the Southern Baptists in pretty significant ways. He’s made it clear his Mormon faith will guide him on this public policy. I wonder where else that’ll turn out to be true.

Since the president’s interview with ABC’s delightful and ambiguous Robin Roberts, the pressure to pick a side has really amped up. The NAACP is on our side. So is Jay Z. It’s the hot question in every celebrity interview. I have to be brave enough to ask that question of the people around me. I don’t really ask. I just assume the support of some people, and with others, I avoid the topic because I’m afraid of the answer.

But I’m married. And if someone in my life does not respect the authenticity of my marriage, if they wouldn’t defend it on my behalf, then they’re working against us. They’re a bigot. Maybe they’re a bigot because of their religion, or maybe it’s because… okay, let’s be fucking real here. It is ONLY because of their religion. Just because my God is awesome and theirs is apparently kind of a dick is no reason to infringe on my rights.

These people are toxic, and they have no place in my life. From now on, no matter who they are, the people around me are going to pick a side. That’s how I’m fighting for equality.


Topher Payne is an Atlanta-based playwright, and the author of the book “Necessary Luxuries: Notes on a Semi-Fabulous Life.” Find out more at