Saturday, June 25, 2011


What a night it was, and what a Pride weekend it is going to be. Congratulations New York and congratulations to the world, as getting marriage equality here is a monumental achievement for our movement.

As the most influential and most populous state to make marriage equality a reality, New York has completely reinvigorated our movement. This is a game changer of huge proportions. New York State follows pioneering states like Vermont and New Hampshire which also attained marriage equality not through the courts but through a vote by legislators, the people's representatives. As small states,Vermont and New Hampshire -- which followed Massachusetts, the first state to have marriage equality, after its highest court ruled gays and lesbians couldn't be excluded from marriage -- are often able to experiment with new ideas. They did something big by showing that the world does not fall apart and heterosexual marriage is not affected in any way if legislators have the guts to allow gays and lesbians marry. Now, the sheer magnitude of New York takes the fight for equality in a different direction. New York City's position as the center of the world on so many fronts brings marriage equality far into the mainstream. New York, as a business leader, a cultural leader, a media leader, an education leader, an entertainment industry leader, a fashion industry leader and political leader in the U.S. -- and as the seat of the United Nations -- will have enormous influence in bringing equal rights and marriage equality to many states and to the world.

It's not that marriage is the be-all and end-all. Marriage is a right that not everyone, perhaps not even most LGBT people, may want to exercise. But it is something denied us, an institution that for too long has been cordoned off for straights only. That can't be tolerated. Knocking down the walls of marriage knocks down many other walls of inequality. We cannot accept any laws written against us.

And make no mistake: Over 30 states have ugly amendments to their constitutions banning marriage for gays and lesbians, defining LGBT people in those states as less than everyone else. In most states it is legal to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in housing, employment and public accommodations, because there are no civil rights protections. In some states LGBT people cannot adopt children. We nave no federal civil rights protections beyond the long overdue hate crimes act. The Defense of Marriage Act is still harming us, challenged in court but still there preventing the federal benefits of marriage. And though it is on its last legs and we hope it will be gone in a matter of months, "don't ask, don't tell" is still the law of the land.

So, there is much work ahead. But what happened in New York last night will be seen to have been as pivotal as what happened in this state, in this city, over 40 years ago when patrons at the Stonewall Inn said, "Enough!" In the streets of Manhattan last night, all over Chelsea and the West Village, couples were proudly holding hands, celebrating the fact that they're not second class citizens in their relationships. I was energized by all the young people dancing in the streets, packing the Stonewall Inn and spilling way outside. There must have been over 1000 people there -- gay, straight, transgender, young, old, men, women of every race -- on Sheridan Square and in the street, embracing and dancing at the site where it all began. The history of the struggles and triumphs of this movement -- from the Stonewall riots up through the darkest and most ghastly days of the AIDS pandemic and into this period of dizzying achievements and the occasional, expected heart-sinking losses -- was in the air. Everyone was connecting, euphoric and realizing that it is our time.

Happy Pride to all!