It was about thirteen months ago that I began religiously to examine all things Proposition 8, the voter-activated referendum that revoked the right of same-sex couples to marry in California (I covered the topic on this blog while working as an intern for the Roosevelt Institute last summer). As the trial progressed, friends and I would follow the ebb and flow of anxiety and potential victory. In August of 2010, Prop 8 was deemed unconstitutional by a federal court, representing a small victory in a battle for equality that has been raging since 1969, when the New York bar Stonewall was raided by police in an act of blatant homophobia.
Fast forward to Albany, New York on Friday, June 24th, 2011. After years of disavowing what equality truly means, the New York legislature voted to legalize same-sex marriage. The passage of the law ignited flames of passion and celebration. Those outside Stonewall shed tears and shared hugs; Americans across the nation celebrated one of the greatest victories seen yet by the gay rights movement.
There are dozens of political lessons to be learned by considering the route this legislation took to eventually reach the floor and its monumental passage. It might, however, be beneficial to us all to take a step back and really consider what has happened here. The legalization of gay marriage in New York has unleashed a bolt of lightning across our country and has reinvigorated the battle for equality. It has demonstrated that success can happen, that government can act in the interest of its supporters, and that as a nation our notions of true equality continue to evolve.
Standing at the Pride parade in New York this past weekend, I was overcome on numerous occasions. Men and women walked down 5th Avenue with signs reading "Accepting Proposals," "I Do," and "Equality is for All." Wedding marches played and tears came to my eyes. I danced down the street with my friends and celebrated with true abandon. Not only have I had the privilege to witness such a monumental event in the history of the movement for equality, but I felt recognized. What made me an American became tactile; I felt it in my hands and throughout my entire body.
This is not the end of the battle. And this change does not mean that equality has been won for all peoples of all communities -- in fact, far from it.
But it means that we celebrated love. We celebrated something wonderfully human and did so without regard or apology. We celebrated community and the collective drive to extend and redefine what being American means to all people. Some things should be that simple. And they were this weekend.
Joseph Lawless is a rising senior at the University of Pennsylvania and a former Roosevelt Institute intern.