Saturday, June 25, 2011

It All Started at Stonewall

My guess would be even the most idealistic activists who'd taken part in the Stonewall Inn riot of 1969 would never have thought that gay marriage would one day be a reality in New York within 42 year's time. Of course, the primary impetus for Stonewall was not a demand for gay marriage or even civil unions but one for the simple, abstract right to not be singled out and persecuted (and prosecuted) for their sexual orientation.

When NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the gay marriage bill into law last night, thereby allowing same sex couples in New York to legally marry in 30 days, it was a watershed moment in not only New York but national politics, with the full weight of historical import felt both in Albany and on the streets of the West Village. Passing 33-29 in a deathly quiet chamber, the outcome hanging in the balance and not known until the final votes were tallied, four New York Republicans joined with all but one Democrat to give the New York LGBT community the rights given to their brothers and sisters in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Iowa and, briefly, Maine and California.

It was still a hard line party vote but it bears repeating that four Republicans did vote for it while being threatened by Tea Baggers outside the state house. Said GOP state Senator Grisanti from Buffalo:
I apologize for those who feel offended. I cannot deny a person, a human being, a taxpayer, a worker, the people of my district and across this state, the State of New York, and those people who make this the great state that it is the same rights that I have with my wife.

That's not political grandstanding. That's a courageous statement coming from the heart that gets immediately to the heart of the matter, a heart that's been beating in the chest of every liberal since time immemorial: That if you're a gainfully employed taxpayer, a voter, an American citizen and a human being, you, too, ought to be accorded the same constitutional protections, civil liberties and human rights granted those in the straight community.

Anything less is, at best, cowardice and political expediency, at worst, hateful bigotry.

Last night was indeed a great night to be gay and bisexual in New York state, one of the most momentous acts of legislation in recent New York history.

But there was a summer night like this in Sacramento, California not too long ago, three years ago, to be exact. Within six months, gay marriage was taken from the state in a dirty, overfunded and extra-legal dirty trick called Proposition 8. And to this day, even though retired Judge Vaughn Walker struck down Prop 8's constitutionality, his judgment has been stayed and had been until a week and a half ago challenged by die-hard wingnuts who claim that the openly-gay Walker's ruling was a conflict of interest (Oh, the irony!).

Walker's ruling is expected to be tried before the right wing Supreme Court. So let's not forget California and Maine, which lost legal same sex marriage before it had even become law. As Jefferson famously said, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.

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