Saturday, July 18, 2015

Freedom to Marry: Celebrating Victory

Freedom To Marry, the premier organisation fighting for marriage equality in the USA, is closing down, now that it’s particular work is done. As part of their swan song, they recently held a gala attended by Vice President Biden, and they're releasing a few last videos, like the one above.

From the YouTube description:
“On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the freedom to marry nationwide. This video sheds light on the incredible story of the movement that historic win possible.”
I thought the video is well done, though there were parts I couldn’t see well. I guess there must have been some dust blowing in through the closed window, because my eyes were watering.

The thing is, when I was an LGBT grassroots activist from the early 1980s to the early 1990s, I was working for a day in which 50-state marriage equality would be a reality. I didn’t expect to see it until I was very old, but it was nevertheless something I was working toward, even if it was usually only slightly related.

So, seeing marriage equality arrive is, first and foremost, a dream come true, because I did dream of a day in which legal equality would be a reality. There were bitter disappointments and defeats along the way. “What happens to a dream deferred,” I often recited to myself at such times, even as I wished it would explode*. Slow and steady, it turned out, won the race.

So now Freedom To Marry steps off the stage, leaving the last few battles to the groups who have been there throughout. It’s all a matter of mopping up the last cells of resistance, and time to move on to the last few tasks remaining.

One of those remaining tasks—banning employment discrimination MAY have become easier this past week. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruled that the 1964 Civil Rights Act bars discrimination based on sexual orientation because “[A]llegations of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation necessarily state a claim of discrimination on the basis of sex.” Whether the EEOC is right will probably be determined, ultimately by the US Supreme Court, but, for now, it’s the rule.

Still, easy as it is to be unnecessarily distracted by the hard-core opponents of marriage equality, and by the work remaining to end discrimination against LGBT people, it’s perfectly okay to stop and reflect on how far we’ve come, how we got here, and how much it means to real, ordinary people. One commentator on YouTube put it well—and I don’t often say THAT! He said:
“I lost my lover of 27 years in 1996. We marched together in the first Gay Pride parade in NYC, and many, many more. We were never able to marry in his lifetime, but I am so happy to have lived long enough to see it possible for others. We were as married as two hearts, and souls could ever be. All we were missing was the ‘paper’. I can go to meet him with a smile on my face, and I can’t wait to see the smile on his.”
Congratulations Freedom To Marry—and thank you!

*This is a quote from and reference to "Harlem" by Langston Hughes, one of my favourite poets, and a big literary influence as I entered adulthood. "Harlem" is one of my favourites of his poems.

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