August brings with it more wedding bells, as equal marriage rights take effect in Minnesota and Rhode Island, and more and more couples marry in California. It’s a great feeling to celebrate friends’ weddings and to have the freedom to marry extended to a growing number of states on both coasts, as well as in America’s heartland.
With the end of Section 3 of DOMA, legally married same-sex couples are beginning to get notices from their employers about how that Supreme Court decision impacts their daily lives, as HR departments scramble to revise their practices to ensure equality in benefits. We remain hopeful that August may bring marriage equality to yet another state – Illinois – while progress continues in legislatures and courtrooms in states as diverse as New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Hawaii, and more.
At the same time, we are increasingly aware of the need to continue the ongoing work for full equality in all aspects of our lives, both for our own communities and beyond. Recently we attended a rally on the steps of San Francisco City Hall – a familiar venue for marriage equality rallies for over a decade – but this time it was a vigil for justice for Trayvon Martin. As Rev. Amos Brown spoke, he movingly wove together civil rights and LGBT rights into one movement for human rights and dignity, and we recalled how his booming voice echoed off the walls of every building in the Civic Center five years earlier when he addressed tens of thousands of us assembled for the largest protest following the passage of Proposition 8.
And now we have a new protest venue – the Russian Consulate – the site of a community rally in the wake of increasing homophobia taking hold in the world’s largest nation. While we celebrate wins for marriage equality on both sides of the English Channel, with both England and France embracing the freedom to marry, events in Russia and elsewhere are a sobering reminder that progress can be painfully slow – and gains can be reversed at any time by homophobic demagogues.
Truly it seems like this is no time to rest. Yet we would be foolish if we didn’t make sure to celebrate our wins, as that fortifies us for the work that lies before us. We look forward to seeing you at both the next wedding reception, and at the next rally – for both are important and necessary reminders of how far we’ve come, and how far we have yet to go.
By MEUSA Director of Legal & Policy John Lewis and MEUSA National Media Director Stuart Gaffney
An edited version of this article originally appeared in SF Bay Times, August 8, 2013: http://www.sfbaytimes.com/?sec=article&article_id=17867