Jeff Zarrillo ’95, one of four plaintiffs in the 2010 legal challenge to California’s Proposition 8 gay marriage ban, returned to campus for a panel discussion following the performance of the play 8 on March 24, 2012.
Q: What did you enjoy most about being back at Montclair State?
A: It was exciting to come back and help further the message of equality. One of our goals with the lawsuit was to help change public opinion by simply telling people “our” stories—not just Paul’s and mine (his partner and co-plaintiff, Paul Katami) but everyone’s in the LGBT community. We have found that when we tell those stories, we change hearts and minds. Changing hearts and minds moves us forward in the equality process.
Q: Are you satisfied with the play and the way you’re portrayed? Did you provide any creative input?
A: I’m very satisfied with Lance’s (Academy Award-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black) script. He found a creative way to get a very important message out to the public. We put fear and prejudice on trial and won. What is so great about the play is that you see this process play out. But at the very heart of this play (and the whole process) are human beings—two loving couples committed to each other who just want one thing—to be married. We have spoken to Lance at great length about our experiences at the trial and throughout the entire process. He is not just an advocate of equal rights, he is a friend and we have grown to love him dearly.
Q: What do you hope people come away with after seeing the play?
A: I think people are surprised at the range of emotion they feel watching the play. The play has humor, joy, sadness, anger, etc. What I want people to understand is that we are not asking for a new or special right. We are simply asking to be treated equally under the law. We should never (as Governor Christie has suggested) put people’s fundamental rights up to a public vote.
Q: How has life changed for you after being part of this historic court challenge?
A: I would say it has changed in a couple of ways. First, now I want to get married more than ever. Being part of this case and being so close to the cause, I am reminded daily of what being married to Paul would mean to my family and me. Second, I would say that I never really thought I could help make a difference in the world. I know now that anyone can help make a difference—some in big ways, some in small, but in ways that make us a better people and move us forward as a more equal nation.