Sunday, June 26, 2011

Marriage Equality in New York

I'm feeling a range of emotion as I sit here and write this blog on this Gay Pride morning. It takes me back to a time many moons ago when I was this skinny little girl from the Bronx who dared to loc her hair,wear ripped jeans and combat boots while riding the subways of New York City, wanting to clutch her more dominant looking female lovers hand to taunts of "go wash your hair," or "what's up with your jeans?" It was about as daring as we could get for fears that we would be "figured out" and what one might perceive to be an innocent 'taunting' would turn into a full-fledged gay bashing. Despite these perceived threats, I remember not wavering from some form of righteous self-expression that in my eyes and my partners eyes, fell short of actually publicly coming out.

Fast forward some twenty years later. Times are changing. This week, we've witnessed another milestone for LGBTQ rights - New York has legalized gay marriage. It is a monumental occasion and an important one. That we've received the basic human right to marry the person that we love. Although many of us will be 'dancing in the streets' this afternoon in celebration, although many will be proposing to their partners, and a plethora of wedding announcements will begin to invade our in-boxes and snail mail and will become a way of life for us, we also know the fight for civil rights for our community still continues.

Regarding marriage, the protection of same sex couples and families is tremendously important. However, many are not aware that state passage of same sex marriage is limited and that DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act is what we truly need for our relationships and families to be recognized on a federal level. For many, to marry is a symbolic act but their are financial/economic implications one should be aware of. I suggest you google Tara Siegel Bernard's NYTimes piece entitled "How Gay Marriage will Change Couples Financial Lives" published June 24th for the details. You will discover that the fight for same sex marriage still has a distance to go for "Full equality."

But it's progress. My partner and I will most certainly "walk down the aisle," to prove our loving bond to each other. And we will take solace that our relationship will be recognized as one baring little difference to the relationships of our married, heterosexual friends. Our son, our family will be protected in ways they weren't before. This doesn't reduce the significance of living wills and trusts everyone. Remember Terry Schiavo. One can never have too much (legal) protection.

However, let's not rest on this victory when there is so much work to be done. As New York fought hard to push marriage equality through, there was a major push back from religious organizations actually fighting for the right to continue discriminating against us. This is beyond priceless when the Catholic Church continues to suppress a legacy of priests practicing pedophilia within ranks. Temples and synagogues attempts to police itself on similar allegations and the tithes of black churches are going to pay the victims of closeted preachers of mega churches. So its tantamount that faith-based communities join forces with LGBTQ organizations to meet some of these challenges head-on in an open and honest dialog. Because their refusal to acknowledge and deny our existence within and outside their organizations is at the height of hypo-criticism.

Challenges within the Workplace, International Rights and Immigration, the Military, Parenting, Hate Crimes, Coming Out, Youth, Aging, Health, Trans-gender issues remain big ticket issues for us, not to mention the sometimes illusive presence/inclusion of people of color within the framework.

So, let's celebrate with love in our hearts and minds. But let's also remember our struggle for civil rights continue. And a huge victory such as what New York has achieved this week will give us incentive that achieving our collective goals can happen. It also reminds us that our dreams are indeed possible in our lifetime.

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