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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Thank you, New York.

I am still dizzy with delight this morning.

I watched the live-stream video of the NY Senate vote last night. Normally, this stuff is like watching paint dry, but I was sitting on the edge of my seat the whole time.

I know. I know. Massachusetts was first. And, there's Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Iowa and the District of Columbia with full Marriage Equality.

I'm not sure why this particular "win" felt so different.

Okay, so there's the fact that the NY Senate has a decided Republican majority and four - count 'em 1, 2, 3, 4 - Republicans crossed the aisle to cast an affirmative vote.

That made up for the one Democrat, Ruben Diaz from the Bronx, who made an embarrassing, rambling display of bigotry, compounded by the fact that he hid behind the brocaded robes and bigoted words of the RC Archbishop of NY and then chided Republicans for really being Democrats. He said it like it was a bad thing. Remember: Diaz is, himself, a Democrat.

As I've always said, prejudice destroys brain cells. This guy sounded as if he was trying to earn his credentials as a member of the Tea Bag Party.

And, and, AND . . . that was all redeemed in that incredible moment when Republican Senator Grisanti rose to say,
"I struggled with the word marriage but I also struggled with the rights of gay and lesbian couples. It boils down to a person can be wiser today than he was yesterday -- and I can't deny others the rights my wife and I enjoy."
This is HUGE, people. HUGE!

It's huge because the new law also insists on maximal religious liberty for those who conscientiously oppose marriage equality. Imagine! Queers and our progressive allies setting the example for a clear delineation of the lines between church and state.

Imagine! Queers and our allies protecting the rights of bigots to practice their religious bigotry and prejudice - the very people who seek to deny the civil rights of others.

The church emerged from this struggle with a huge black eye. The irony is that it is self-inflicted.

Even so, it must be said that many, many religious leaders, across the broad interfaith religious spectrum, joined together to speak to that separation of church and state to lobby legislators about the importance of civil rights for all.

Assemblyman Nelson Castro, age 39 and a former RC and present devout Seventh Day Adventist, was one of three religious Democrats who changed their position last week as the Assembly passed a gay marriage bill 80-63 and sent it to the Senate.

He said, “I think marriage should be between a man and a woman, but I don’t have the right to prohibit others to have the right to get married."

Indeed, Senator Grisanti who spoke so eloquently last night and voted affirmatively for this legislation is a devout Roman Catholic. Well, he may find himself excommunicated on Sunday, but at least as of today, he remains a Roman Catholic.

Another HUGE difference is that, in this campaign, marriage-equality activists were more organized this year. Castro noted that, in 2009, “the LGBT community never showed up to lobby me."

We've done a great deal of work in our own community on our own racism. That work has begun to pay off. You can't change prejudice while still holding onto your own personal prejudices.

Sounds simple enough, right? Of course, it isn't. It's a hard lesson well learned. And, it can't stop here. We have got to use our alliances and organizational skills to work on all the issues of justice, or we'll have no credibility.

It's also just smart politics. It reminds me of something my Grandmother used to say. "You can work hard or you can work smart. You'll still break a sweat, but you'll be more effective if you work smart."

And, and, AND. . . without the support and lobbying efforts of Governor Andy Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg, this would not have happened.

Late Friday Cuomo said he was open to changing the language in the bill passed by the Assembly to include more religious protections, similar to a bill that narrowly passed the New Hampshire state legislature in 2009.
“The issue here is literally of religious freedom,” Cuomo said to reporters Friday afternoon. “This is not about marriage in a religious term. This is a civil law issue, and we want to make sure we keep it separate.”

He added, “I happen to be a Catholic, and that’s my business. That’s my religion. This is about marriage as defined by government not by religion.”
Can I get an "Amen!"?

The State doesn't tell us who we can Baptize or to whom we can distribute Holy Eucharist or any of the other five Sacramental Rites, much less authorize those who are ordained to administer the Sacraments or Sacramental Rites. Why should the State have anything to say about the Sacramental Rite of Marriage?

Some of the heroes of this victory, however, are unsung. Yes, there are the "stars," but there are also those who spent numerous hours making phone calls and having difficult, private conversations with Queer people as well as those who could not have imagined, in 2009, supporting Marriage Equality.

The real heroes, however, are those numbered among the Saints in Heaven. I keep remembering all my brothers who died in the early days of AIDS saying, "Something good has to come out of this plague. Hearts and minds have to change, some redemption has to emerge because of this unearned suffering."

The more of us who came out of the closet of fear and broke the silence that was killing us, the healthier we got, even though some of us died waiting for justice and health and healing.


“My name is Harvey Milk and I’m here to recruit you.”
I keep hearing Harvey Milk saying,
"I cannot prevent anyone from getting angry, or mad, or frustrated. I can only hope that they’ll turn that anger and frustration and madness into something positive, so that two, three, four, five hundred will step forward, so the gay doctors will come out, the gay lawyers, the gay judges, gay bankers, gay architects … I hope that every professional gay will say ‘enough’, come forward and tell everybody, wear a sign, let the world know. Maybe that will help.”
I think it did, Harvey. I think it did.

The more of us who came out as self-affirming Queers, the better we were able to warm hearts with our humanity and open minds that had been closed by ignorance and misunderstanding.

In the end, as it was in the beginning, it's all about the Incarnation. It's about embodying your beliefs and values and living with as much authenticity and integrity and honesty as you can possibly muster.

It's all about confronting those who are "offended" by "one of those" by being "one of them" and showing them just how wrong they really are.

It's about showing up for your life, even when others don't want you there, and breaking the silence and shattering the secrets and telling the truth everyone pays lip service to but no one really wants to hear: That we are all created by God.

We are, each and every one of us, God's children. Individual and yet equal in the sight of God.

And, under the law.

Harvey, of course, lost his life to the battle against the bigotry of homophobia. He knew the risks. Indeed, he once said, "“If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.”

What happened in New York has helped to break down barriers and will continue to help people - especially young Queer people - come out of their closets of shame and fear and be all that God made them to be.

"Ya gotta give 'em hope!" Said Harvey.

I think that's really the sea change of Marriage Equality in New York. We have hope. The arc of history is long, as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, but it always bends toward hope.

Last night, the arc bent just enough to make it just a little easier for the next state struggling for Marriage Equality.

What's that saying about New York, New York?: "If you can make it there, you'll make it anywhere."

It's up to us to honor the legacy and continue the struggle - state by state - until civil rights for all is the law of the land everywhere for everyone.

We have many more miles to go, but we stand on the shoulders of giants of justice. Our lessons are learned. Our legacy is rich and great.

Now, onto California - with more hope in our hearts than we dared imagine was possible.

Thank you, New York.

And, thank you, Harvey.

"Ya gotta give 'em hope!"

15 comments:

Jane R said...

I just weep every time I hear that speech. Thanks for remembering Harvey on this joyous day. Harvey Milk, ¡Presente!

Turtle Woman said...

Am I the first to comment here?
Well gay marriage in New York... a big old legislature doing it too. Wow, religious right can't complain about judges overreaching here! And on the anniversary of Hands Around the God Box protest in 1994! And almost the Stonewall rebellion anniversary too... is that cool or what!

gerry said...

Elizabeth...

It's a new day in the Kingdom, whether in New York, New Jersey or wherever. I thank God for the bravery of our Senators and Legislators who ignored the high pitched whining and whinging of Archbishop Dolan and the other fundegelicals opposed to marriage equality.

Our assignment as Queer Episcopalians is now to get the Convention and the Diocesan Conventions to authorize new rites for Blessing Civil Unions /Marriages.

While I fail to understand the objections, I accept that there are those in Central NY and all the Dioceses of the Church unable to accept that ours is a God of Love and a Church of Inclusion.

Praise God from whom all Blessings Flow...

PS what's a deliz

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Turtle Woman, No prize, but I guess you are the first. Slow day in the neighborhood, methinks. This is cooler than Superman's cape - which I wouldn't tug, anyway. It feels like we just leaped over the Empire State Building in a single bound - that's not true, of course, but it feels like it.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Right you are, Gerry. Folks anywhere in TEC will have less and less reason - except their own bias and prejudices - to object to the church having authorized rites of blessings for the covenants made between two people of the same gender.

Was 'deliz' your Word Verification? Deliz sounds close enough to 'delicious' for me to agree with this sweet victory.

Douglas Becker said...

Aren't nearly all objections to Gay relationships based on a pure religious basis, whether Bible or Koran?

I don't know that this is true, but if it is -- and I see no other basis for opposition -- then wouldn't opposition necessarily infringe on the boundaries between church and state?

This isn't a rhetorical question for me, I really would like to have the answer, if there is one.

And if the answer is yes, then I would like to march on Pastor Fred's Church with signs that say that eating Pork is an abomination and God hates all pork and shellfish eaters and will punish them. Unless you think it too unchristian to give him a taste of his own medicine. Well, you must admit it could be tempting....

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Jane R - well, apparently your comment got stuck in cyberspace and you win the award for first post ;~).

Harvey is rejoicing from heaven, I'm sure.

Muthah+ said...

I am so delighted with NY and Gov Cuomo to have moved forward with this. I commend those who crossed the aisle to vote to end the hypocracy about the difference between the way Q folk live and the way that straight folk live.

Ok, you can go back to CA and get that through the courts. But it is time to focus some energy on TX!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Texas will come along, Muthah, kicking up a fuss with their cowboy boots and all guns blazing, but they'll have to follow the law once this is taken from the states to the Supreme Court. And, I predict, it will happen in our lifetimes. You heard it here first. Ya gotta give 'em hope, is all.

Daisy said...

Gives hope that we'll evolve into better people than we have been!
We've moved a little bit further into the Kindom Jesus proclaimed.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Yes we have, Daisy. Yes we have. Thanks be to God! And, onward. We still have lots more work to do.

IT said...

Actually the next focus should be MN where they will be voting on a Prop 8 style amendment in 2012. We need to break that momentum. We've lost 38 off these so far.

I don't see how this will affect CA one way or the other right now,

walter said...

Time has come, Elizabeth, to be defined by the Mind of God, personal Mind of God, mine as true as yours. The Blue Grotto Tavern may become the first interdenominational Community of Faith. Why interdenominational and inclusive? Because we understand as true allies that there are Episcopalian Queer as there are Presbyterian Queer as there are Roman Catholic Queer and we have a vision of Inclusive Catholicism that firmly stands on a division of Church and State that empowers the Freedom of a new community of Faith, theologically sound. May Love, finds us and strengthens us and keeps us grounded. Love, genuine Love is conceived absolutely by the Mind of God.

Walter Vitale

Turtle Woman said...

Hey, I like the idea of leaping over the empire state building, right along with superman! And happily remembering my holy union ceremony almost 25 years ago! I smile thinking how one of our vows was "let no church put assunder" and knowing that we went ahead and had our ceremony in MCC, and no malestream church, no state government, no national government had anything to do with it. And now, I have heteros coming up to me for marriage advice and counseling... I married one woman ages ago, and am still married to the same woman... no social status, no social security benefits, no parents supporting the union, no state government supporting it... so there was only one reason to do this... LOVE... and I will always smile knowing we just went ahead and lived our lives till the state and the church managed to barely keep up. Yeah, we leaped over the empire state building, we zoomed over Mt. Fuji, and we flew around the isle of Lesbos... and now old New York just caught up with two lesbians in capes flying along with superman... :-) Love the smile of it all... :-)

Joan of Quark said...

Wonderful news!! In a way I wish it had been obvious it would succeed from the start, but perhaps the fact that some legislators had to think it over and then publicly change their minds is also a good precedent and gives pause to anyone who thinks their own position is/must be set in stone.