Pride comes in a myriad of forms for multiple occasions and in June particularly there are countless reasons to feel that swell in your chest. A month of wonderful graduations, grand weddings, and my sons would remind me, nail-biting NBA and NHL championships! As pride hits we in pews or stadium-seats cheer and clap and are caught in emotion. Gay Pride struts along our avenues in full technicolor during June too, causing us all to remember what is so easy to forget, that for many Americans who they love not only defines them, it targets them. Although the Supreme Court overturned section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), there are still many places where fear and ignorance shape our youth, dominate our lives, and restrict our liberty.
The first gay pride parades began in the early 1970’s, with brave men and women carrying brash slogans and rainbow flags. Often, a cautious press underestimated the crowd size, and fear dominated the headlines. Today, of course, life is different. There are Out gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and transsexual people in our government, our schools, prominent on our big and small screens, our sports teams, and in every area of daily life. In many states across the U.S. either marriage, civil union or domestic partnership benefits are afforded to same sex couples, and this figure is far from stagnant; in these states is no longer legal to fire someone because of their sexual orientation, or not hire them to begin with, no longer is abuse tolerated either, but make no mistake, these are far from rights all citizens receive. “A state line — not a minister, a rabbi or a justice of the peace — still decides who is married and who is not. This disparate treatment under the law is likely to remain unless the 37 states that do not permit same-sex unions reverse course, or if the Supreme Court revisits the question in a broader case and issues a ruling that establishes a constitutional right to marriage” (Peters, “Federal Court Speaks, but Couples Still Face State Legal Patchwork” New York Times).
I wanted to write about pride for all the reasons one feels the emotion, for the flood that overcomes me when I read a compelling final essay or acknowledge someone’s hard fought college years. Pride in knowing that hard work, involving real sweat paid off, and this person is now stepping into the world with sure footing. Somewhere in witnessing these institutional ceremonies, with cap and gown, pomp and circumstance, juxtaposed to the still marginalized nature of Gay Pride celebrations struck me. Witnessing the legal maneuvering of the Supreme Court over DOMA and Prop 8, I am both elated and equally jaded. Elated for all the obvious reasons, and jaded for it’s not enough and it’s not fast enough… Yes yes I know, I can hear my father’s distinctive voice, as the consummate historian, reminding me that not all that long ago Oscar Wilde sat ruined in a jail cell while today I live in a state with protection. A big stride in a short time, he would point out, considering the slow evolution of civil rights. But is this enough to keep our young gay people from feeling like outcasts? From being the highest group of suicide victims? Is this move by the Supreme Court enough to keep the pendulum rising in the direction of liberty?
In light of the Gay Pride celebrations happening worldwide, for today, for this week, I will let this small step be enough. I invite you to join me, and let President Obama’s words ring out, loud and proud, “Love is Love!”