To All the Married Gay Couples Out There: The Fight Doesn't End With DOMA's Ruling
First of all, I want to offer you my sincere congratulations on your incredible victory this week. Through the recent decisions of the Supreme Court, your lifetime relationships are now acknowledged by the federal government as well as by your state. For all intents and purposes, your marriage now means as much as anyone else’s. What a wonderful feeling it is to know that you and your loved ones are protected with all of the family rights afforded to any other citizen of the United States. It is truly inspiring to know that, at least in some places in our country, LGBT-identified people have the same potential to have a legally recognized family as anyone else.
Your victory this week is historic, and will undoubtedly be written about many times over as we chronicle our history as an LGBT community — but I think it’s prudent to point out that this is your victory, not our victory. While your rights and liberties have been greatly expanded because of the Supreme Court’s decision, the rights of most people within the LGBT community haven’t grown at all. As a queer North Carolinian, I have no more rights today than I had last week, and because of the Supreme Courts' narrow ruling on Proposition 8, I have little hope of attaining those rights anytime soon. For us, members of the LGBT community who don’t live in states where marriage equality is a reality, we have a long, uphill battle. Given that Amendment One passed in North Carolina only a little over a year ago by a 61% majority, I don’t think that marriage equality will exist in my home state for at least another ten or twenty years without federal or court intervention.
I’m not saying all of this in order to make you feel bad about your big win yesterday — by all means you should celebrate jubilantly — but I do want you to understand that, along with these newfound rights come increased responsibilities. As American LGBT families that are fully recognized under both state and federal law, you now enjoy more rights than most queer people around the world. Don’t take that statement lightly. It means that, within the LGBT community, you enjoy a vast amount of privilege. You can visit your partners in the hospital, file joint tax returns, enjoy social security benefits, adopt children, and create a home with the security of knowing that your home is as respected as your neighbors. What an incredible change, and what an incredible moment in the lives of your families this must be.
I’m writing you today with one simple request — I’m asking you not to forget about people like me, people who live in communities and regions around the world that do not have legal protections for LGBT people and families. You don’t have to look that far to remember. Look at low-income communities in your own backyard, and you will find LGBT people whose concerns are more fundamental than the right to have a legally recognized family. You’ll find homeless LGBT youth and adults who don’t know where they’ll get their next meal, you’ll find LGBT people who are working three minimum-wage jobs and can’t come out at any of them for fear of being fired, you’ll find LGBT people who can’t walk alone at night without the fear of imminent physical violence and assault, or you’ll find LGBT students who have systematically been pushed down the school-to-prison pipeline because of their identity. Throughout the country, LGBT people continue to be marginalized, disenfranchised, and abused, and that’s a fact that no Supreme Court decision is going to change.
So this week, as you celebrate your new status as a legally recognized family and attend pride parades around the country, remember that we still have work to do. This weekend, you should go to Pride, go out dancing, have a barbecue, or take a romantic getaway with your partner, but please don’t forget about the rest of us when you wake up on Monday.
Rich or poor, black or white, citizens or immigrants, married or unmarried, we are an LGBT community. Now, more than ever, I don’t think that’s something we can afford to forget.
With love, solidarity, and celebration,
P.S. I better get some invitations to some pretty fierce weddings soon!