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."
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.”Can I get an "Amen!"?
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.”
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 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!"