YouTube’s Gay Family Gets Documentary
YouTube has popped out an army of viral video celebrities since its conception in 2005 ranging from the silly (the "leave Brittney alone!" Chris Crocker) to the serious (the ultra LGBT ally Zach Wahls). In 2008, the Leffew family uploaded a homemade video onto the site in a response to the passing of Proposition 8, a measure that prohibits same-sex couples in California from getting married. The clip has since propelled them to Internet superstardom, allowing them to join the ranks of similar LGBT vloggers and e-celebs.
The first video by police officer Jay Foxworthy and stay-at-home-dad Bryan Leffew, called "Gay Family Values," features the couple and their two sprightly children eating at the dinner table. Just ten seconds into the film, Foxworthy boldly states, "I’m a gay male who has been with my partner for thirteen years and I was hoping that people can see that straight families aren’t the only ones with family values." Those warm words followed by the fervent filming of their everyday lives transformed the loving couple from an everyday American family into political activists.
In late 2008, director Cassie Jaye, of Jaye Bird Productions, watched their first three videos and "instantly fell in love with them and the palpable love that they have and share within their family." Jaye approached the Leffews along with a lesbian couple and various activist groups to work on a marriage equality film project. With hours and hours of footage shot, Jaye’s production team "kept coming back to the Leffews" and said they "were an approachable family" and could be "the face" of the Jaye Bird project. Eventually, Jaye decided to reframe the project around the Leffews. That project turned into the documentary, ""The Right to Love: An American Family."
"It was a learning experience," said Jaye. "I work with my family. We grew up very sheltered in the church. We were raised Evangelical Christian. We’re all heterosexuals and had never been exposed to a family with two gay parents. Meeting the Leffews opened our eyes to something that we were probably fearful of. It was the unknown."
A shift in the way a person thinks is not necessarily observable, but the Leffews witnessed a powerful transformation in the Jaye family.
"They were educating themselves in the process of making this film," said Leffew, a stay-at-home dad. "They were not one hundred percent for marriage equality in the beginning. The moment when it came was when they started marching with us in San Francisco. When they became allies and not just documentarians. They were standing beside us without cameras on."
With a new-formed relationship, Jaye and the Leffew family filmed a funeral for Prop 8 on June 14 and posted it to YouTube, making it the Leffews’ 493rd video. The video shows a preacher, the two fathers and their two children, standing solemnly over a shallow open grave in a field. At the end of the clip, clumps of soil and white roses were scattered over the tiny brown coffin with the "bodily remains" of Prop 8 inside.
"We were laying Prop 8 to rest not because we expected it to be struck down but because it had been a central part of our life for the last few years," said Leffew. "We were closing a chapter in our journey. It had been like another member of our family. It launched us on YouTube, it made us into activists, and so many people have become part of our lives because of it. It was our way of saying goodbye."
The Supreme Court is scheduled to issue its next rulings on Wednesday. Prop 8 amended California’s Constitution to add language stating that: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized" in the state and overruled the California Supreme Court that argued that marriage is a fundamental right.
"Prop 8 says to the public at-large that families like ours are second best to theirs and don’t deserve legal protections," said Leffew. "If you uphold a thought process like that where does it go next? Who does it affect?"
Certified Professional Coach Rick Clemons believes that the legalization of gay marriage could unite the [LGBT] community on a deeper level to realize that they do have a voice, and they have the power to make a difference.
"By no means does gay marriage require everyone to participate," said Clemons. "As gay marriage becomes more accepted, it also helps the mental health of the people who felt as if they couldn’t come out. As sad as it may seem to rely on others’ acceptance, it can also be very motivating to know that through the acceptance of gay marriage that the LGBT community can feel comfortable being themselves."
Clemons, who helps clients to come out in a five-step process, is also paying close attention to the Supreme Court’s historic decision. "Prop 8 has set the stage to make the nation take notice. Controversy leads to action and gets people out of inaction. I see this as an opportunity for SCOTUS to actually exercise the fact that we are all created equal and deserve to be treated with equal rights."
In 2010 the U.S. Census Bureau released a Same-Sex Households publication as part of the American Communities Survey, which is a nationwide survey that collects information on demographic, social, economic, and housing characteristics. Approximately 594,000 same-sex couple households were reported in the country and in California 90,000 same-sex couple households were registered under domestic partnerships or civil unions.
Interestingly, Washington, D.C., had the highest number of same-sex couple households. The Census Bureau sends out questionnaires to over 3.5 million households to complete the survey. Therefore those numbers could be significantly higher, and Bryan Leffew agrees. "Hundreds of thousands of couples have been locked out of the opportunity to get married in California."
For the Leffew family, if Prop 8 is ruled unconstitutional it would mean they would be going to a lot of weddings. The Leffews, who are married, were grandfathered in with other same-sex couples married prior to Prop 8’s effective date.
"Our family, our neighbors, friends, and the people who live in the community would be on an equal level with heterosexual relationships."
Check out the Facebook page for "The Right to Love: An American Family" here and the Leffew’s YouTube channel here.