I burst into tears this morning when I heard the historic Supreme Court ruling. At long last, same sex marriage is now a right across all states in the US. This is the moment that Laura and I longed for. Our relationship was bookended by historic changes in gay rights. In 2011, we sat together holding hands and listening as New York state legislators voted to legalize gay marriage. In 2013 we rushed to Christopher Street to celebrate with Edie Windsor her victory overturning the ridiculous DOMA act (that enshrined marriage as a straight affair and gave the nod to intolerance of gay couples who married in one state by saying that other states didn’t need to treat them as married). In the same year DOMA was overturned, we married! For me, the full acceptance factor is the most important part of this latest ruling. It doesn’t matter whether you want to marry or not (although Laura and I loved it). What matters is being treated as normal, as a full human being with the same rights as everyone else. Being treated as less than by governments – or anyone else – does untold damage to a person’s confidence and relationships. This is an incredible turnaround, which I never expected in my lifetime.
Less than 40 years ago, when I was growing up (and hiding out!) gay people were still considered mentally ill (the American Psychiatric Association Manual of Mental Disorders listed being gay as ‘a sociopathic personality disturbance’). And same sex love – even consorting with a person of the same sex on the street or in a bar – was criminal behavior. So gay people were easy pickings for the police. Last weekend I chatted with 80-year-old sociology professor Gil Horowitz at Laura’s favorite coffee shop Joe’s near Christopher Street in Greenwich Village. Gil was present at the Stonewall Riots in New York in 1969, (essentially this was the gay equivalent of other historic civil rights stand offs – the Montgomery Bus boycott, Berlin Wall or Tiananmen Square – when gay people started fighting back). Gil said normally gay people didn’t retaliate against the constant police harassment because if they were arrested and it was marked on their record that they were gay, they would lose their job, their family and friends and most likely never work again. From what he experienced at Stonewall, he said a lot of the fighters during the riots were homeless gay kids who squatted in the park opposite the Stonewall Inn. Their parents had kicked them out for being gay and the Stonewall Inn took them in, fed them and looked after them. Essentially they were fighting to protect their home. And they had nothing to lose.
I plan to be at the New York Gay Pride march this Sunday marching alongside the Reverend Rebecca Barnes who married Laura and I! I couldn’t be prouder and happier… and wherever Laura is, I am sure she is celebrating too.