Some Friday nights I just have to unplug from my technological world. I turn off the television, turn off the computer, set aside the iPhone and, without a Pandora musical background, spend the evening reading a book old-school style, one page at a time. But Friday, June 24, 2011 was not one of those days.
I was connected online surfing my favorite news sites, getting text updates from HRC and the Huffington Post and staying in contact with friends in New York on Facebook and Twitter. Like the vast majority of the LGBT community, I was sitting on pins and needles praying for a victory for marriage equality in the Empire State.
When the news hit I was on the phone with friends squealing and giggling as we started planning their marriage in Central Park this fall. It was going to happen, one way or the other regardless of the legislation because we WERE going to celebrate their sixteen year union. Thanks to New York’s same-sex marriage law, now their commitment will have all the rights and protections afforded any other married couple.
Eva, one of the brides, is a Republican and a friend. We have had many confrontations over politics. Over the years she has attended progressive and/or Democratic events with me and I have reciprocated by going into “Red” territory with her. We have each tried to recruit the other for our respective parties but mostly agree to disagree when it comes to politics. We are friends, good friends whose friendship and opinions have been strengthened by our differing views.
We might disagree on which is the better party, but we both deeply believe in the constitutional truths held “to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” We believe in the promise of America.
After the overwhelming gains by the GOP after the 2010 elections, which I was sure signaled the end of times, I called Eva and asked, Now what? GOP rhetoric suggested that all the gains made, including reproductive rights, immigration reform, environmental protection and LGBT equality, were in the crosshairs and going down.
Fortunately, friendship and shared beliefs will always trump rhetoric and fear. And when the democratic process is practiced without all the current destructive partisanship, the arc of the moral universe continues to be long, but it bends towards justice. We had just seen proof of this in Albany, N.Y.
In a previous vote the decision was made solely along partisan lines – Democrats for, Republicans against. One of the handful of Republicans that voted for same sex marriage this time around told how he had been torn by his previous vote but followed the party line in voting “No.” This time around Republican State Senator Stephen Saland of Poughkeepsie voted his conscience, saying,”I must define doing the right thing as treating all persons with equality.” He added that because Republicans were in control the law wouldn’t have gotten to the floor if they didn’t want it to – to which Senate majority leader Dean Skelos added that he had let it come to the floor because he, Skelos, “believed in democracy.” Equality and freedom have both been identified as important characteristics of democracy, so when given a chance, the arc of the moral universe did its thing and a same-sex-marriage bill passed in New York late last Friday.
For some, a win is a win. Others believe this victory in New York will give a boost to marriage equality across the country. The road ahead will continue to be long and rough. There will challenges and battles to win, but we will win. We did it in New York and they say if you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere.
As a country we don’t have to evolve to know that marriage equality is not just the right thing, but the only thing to do. It’s in our national DNA. Equality and freedom are the cornerstones of our beliefs. They don’t have to evolve, to come forth gradually into being, to develop. We just need to dig out from under the bullshit polluting our vision; we can attain equality and freedom for our unions, our families and our LGBT community.
The reemergence of democracy – now that’s an Empire State of mind.