Friday, June 26, 2015


One hour ago the Supreme Court of the United States issued the historic ruling legalizing marriage equality throughout the nation. Those of us who have lived long enough to witness or experience persecution and discrimination against gay Americans from the mid-20th century until now are still reeling. Our faith in the system just got a significant boost.  And those citizens who are much younger have just been handed a freedom that many of us could not have predicted.

As a gay man in America, I have experienced all of the predictable barbs, shuns and injustices, just like every other gay person. I know what it is to live your life in silence, rather than in sunlight. I lived almost 40 years before I decided to live authentically as a gay American. That’s a long time. I did everything they told boys to do who were born in mid-20th century: dated girls, went to college, married a wonderful girl, worked in the corporate system – but all in the guise of someone I really was not. My story is by no means unique. Sadly, millions of American boys and men did just what I did. The very last thing we ever expected was to be able to love another man openly, and marry him. We are stunned, to say the least. How different our lives may have been had this ruling come down 40 years ago, we will never know.

Inside all the joy we feel at the Court’s validation of our freedom, there is still the realization that every time one reaches a socio/political milestone, somehow "they" move the line up a bit further. So here is a list of issues that still concern me in this slow and steady race to equality:
I never want to see another young boy or girl feel so alienated from his or her family and peers that suicide seems the only answer.
Never again do I want to see a person randomly and viciously attacked on the street because of his or her sexuality. I do not want to see another working adult denied career advancement simply because the good old boys club does not admit gay members. I hope never again to witness a gay couple denied access or adoption privileges to their children. There should not be one more child living on the streets because his or her parents simply dismissed them due to their sexuality. I don’t want to hear religious zealots tell me that we can pass all the laws we want to pass, but same-gender loving relationships are still immoral. I defy one more production company to produce a sitcom or a romantic comedy in which one or more of the characters are gay stereotypes – it’s not funny.

This morning, after the Court’s ruling, Jim Obergefell, whose fight to be listed as the surviving spouse on his husband's death certificate initiated this court case, said this: “It’s my hope that the term ‘gay marriage’ will become a thing of the past.  And our nation will be better off because of it.”

We no longer need that term, if we ever did. We don’t even need the term “marriage equality.” We only need the full recognition that love is love, that people have a right to live their authentic lives, that discrimination based on sexuality is taboo, and that marriage is just marriage.

I, and many others, come from a time when who we were was not acceptable at all. We were not “allowed” to be gay. So we tried our damndest not to be gay, because everybody wants to be recognized and accepted.
We kept our mouths shut when our peers called someone a “fairy” or a “fag.” We dutifully laughed along when someone told a “gay joke.” We did not speak up when even members of our own families made derisive comments about gay people. (My own father once said, “If they can send a man to the moon, surely they can find a cure for homosexuality.”) And sadly, many of us were never able to truly be a full-fledged member of our own families, simply because we had a secret that we knew would just do us in if they knew who we really were.

Honestly, I thank God that I am alive to see what happened in Washington, D.C. this morning. The air seems somehow clearer and more breathable now. The joy that I witnessed on the faces of those on the steps of the Supreme Court came right through the television screen and into my own heart. Civil rights were granted expansion in a way that would have seemed impossible just a few years ago. And as President Obama said in his remarks after the ruling, “Progress on this journey often comes in small increments. Sometimes two steps forward, one step back, compelled by the persistent effort of dedicated citizens. And then sometimes there are days like this, when that slow, steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.”

For me, thunder never sounded quite as harmonious and welcome as it did on June 26, 2015.

1 comment:

Joan Eisenstodt said...

For you, Paul, and for so many friends, my heart is full and glad. Equality is a beautiful thing and this has taken so long. NOW we need to ensure fair and equal treatment in parenting, teaching and other jobs, housing. We need to stop the divisions of 'us' and 'them' - whoever they are.