The arrival of Pride celebrations across the country heralds the approach of summer, and our thoughts drift to an escape from the daily grind for relaxation and replenishment. Before we head off, let's reflect on a busy year.
On the up side, we had a spate of marriage equality victories in state legislatures. At the U.S. Supreme Court, the prospects look good for adding California to the roster of marriage equality states and overturning the gay-exclusionary definition of marriage in the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The Associated Press Stylebook was updated to recognize gay marriages, while Time and The New Yorker devoted covers to the cultural shift in favor of them. Top WNBA draft pick Brittney Griner and 12-year NBA veteran Jason Collins came out. The Boy Scouts of America voted to accept openly gay boys. President Obama announced that he will award a posthumous Medal of Freedom to astronaut Sally Ride, and honored ten openly gay elected and appointed officials as Harvey Milk Champions of Change. He urged the all-male graduating class at Morehouse College, "Be the best husband to your wife, or your boyfriend, or your partner."
On the down side, there's been an uptick in anti-gay hate crimes, including a stalking and murder a few blocks from the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. A judge in Mississippi threatened to take a woman's children away if she did not send her same-sex partner packing. Our purported allies on the Senate Judiciary Committee excluded same-sex couples from the immigration reform bill. The Boy Scouts continue to exclude openly gay adult leaders. The President (as of this writing) failed to sign an executive order protecting LGBT employees of federal contractors from anti-gay and anti-trans discrimination. Transgender people continued to fight for jobs, health care, ID that matches their gender identity, and an end to harassment by police.
The mixed decision by the Boy Scouts is both a welcome step forward and an exasperatingly halfway measure. Its very incoherence will create tensions that can only be resolved by completing the reform.
Our unfinished business has caused some to take an unduly sour view of the overall situation. Washington Blade editor Kevin Naff on May 15 dismissed the celebration of Collins's coming out as an exercise in delusional happy talk. He also wrote, "Pretending that homophobia died because a dozen states enacted marriage equality ignores the facts and the reality of a nation still deeply divided over LGBT issues." But Naff is refuting a point that few have expressed. Of course homophobia and transphobia have not died. Still, we not only have a right to celebrate small advances, we need to celebrate them and give one another encouragement.
But yes, we also need to express our legitimate anger and frustration. On May 21, Sen. Patrick Leahy's Democratic colleagues on the Judiciary Committee forced him to withdraw his amendment to include binational gay couples in the immigration reform bill. They reportedly had the White House's blessing, due to Republican threats to kill the bill if it included gay families. The next morning, I saw the following tweet from the President (or whoever tweets for him):
@BarackObama There's a huge virtual march for #ImmigrationReform today. Tweet the Senate to be a part of it: http://t.co/GebfvubYKD #MarchForInnovation
I, a supporter of Mr. Obama, replied as follows:
@RickRosendall @BarackObama Pardon me, but "be a part of it" is a poor choice of words given that gay families were thrown overboard yesterday. #lgbt
Immigration reform affects me personally. My fiancé Patrick is a Belgian citizen born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We first met twelve years ago. The prospect of losing him due to the legal and financial barriers to our being together has brought us plenty of anguish. Fortunately, we are strong-willed people, determined not to be defeated by congressional profiles in cravenness. I am awed by Patrick's strength, courage, and grace; but I am tired of fighting for rights that my siblings and their children, and now grandchildren, take for granted. I am running out of time and patience.
The Senate's exclusion of gay families from immigration reform was a brutal reminder that we cannot count on politicians, even friendly ones, to do our heavy lifting. With few exceptions, they will go only as far as we have laid the groundwork by our organizing and advocacy for them to go, and only if it will be better for them to support us than to abandon us. After our immediate anger over a defeat subsides, we don't need to become bitter but to remain clear-eyed and disciplined. As negotiation trainer Chester Karrass says, "In business as in life, you don't get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate."
In our continued struggle, we should take note of well-placed allies. Leaders in several sports are making strides to ensure a greater welcome for gay and lesbian athletes. Employers increasingly make the case for pro-LGBT policies. Sri Srinivasan, the Principal Deputy Solicitor General of the United States, was unanimously confirmed by the Senate on May 23 to become the nation's first circuit court judge of South Asian descent. He assisted in arguing for the United States before the Supreme Court in the Windsor case on March 27. Former Acting Solicitor General Walter Dellinger, who has worked with him in both public and private law practice, notes his "extraordinary personal touch." His mixture of brilliance and warmth gives Srinivasan rare across-the-aisle appeal. He is widely touted as one of the top choices to fill the next vacancy on the high court. The need for friends in high places is all too evident as we await the decisions in Windsor and Perry.
Thus, as we step off and wave our banners in Pride parades across the country, we have cause for many emotions. But we have only to look around us to be reminded of our comrades in the struggle and the strength of our cause. The increasingly shrill and hyperbolic attacks by our opponents carry a tacit recognition that the tide of history is with us. If we would honor our friends and forebears who did not live to witness this historic shift, then let us take this break from our battles to celebrate the joy that they taught and showed us.
Jason Collins plans to march in Boston's Pride parade with his friend and former Stanford roommate, Rep. Joe Kennedy. He will doubtless be well received. More important, he will feel at home. He will be where he belongs. He will be happy. You and I, in various ways, helped make that happiness possible. Jason is strong, as all of us have had to be, but he knows that lots of people have his back – and he is far from being the only one. In that we have considerable reason to take pride.
We sometimes argue over whether our taking to the streets on Pride Day is a protest march or a parade. In truth it has roots in both. We would not be where we are without the cross-pollination of our political and cultural efforts, our toughness and our capacity for joy. There is no need to choose. We've earned this moment. It's time to celebrate.
Richard J. Rosendallis a writer and activist. He can be reached at email@example.com.