The morning began nervously, with the 10 a.m. Supreme Court rulings on two extremely important gay marriage cases looming. The possibility for victory was high, and conversely for defeat — for catastrophe, even. Tired from Tuesday night's Texas vigil, I distractedly did work while the clock ticked away slowly, painfully. And then, just like that, there it was. And it was good news! No more DOMA, essentially, a decision granting some 1,138 benefits to married gay couples and moving the line closer to that big nebulous thing called acceptance. The news about the Prop 8 case — basically the decision was that pro-Proppers had no standing to appeal — was good, not great. It could have been landmark, but instead it's just not another setback. All told, it was an exciting morning, and there was much rejoicing, as there should have been. Though, I'd imagine, for some, the air was suddenly filled with more questions.
In terms of legality, of course, we've still 37 states to go before same sex marriage is recognized across the land, meaning there's going to be plenty of logistical confusion until it's all sorted out. A gay couple living in Georgia who got married in Rhode Island may receive some federal benefits, but not necessarily all, or any, of them. It's all going to depend on the "place of celebration standard" and if that's expanded, etc. etc. It's complicated. So today's ruling, while exciting and certainly good news for all gay couples across America, does not promise clear sailing from here on out. There are still lots of legal hurdles and hoops and all manner of other obstacles to clear before being married in America works the same across the board.
There's a cultural element to this that needs considering, too. There was celebration today because people who got married in well-populated, largely liberal states now have their marriages recognized on a federal level. The troubling thing is that, in some cases, that celebration felt final. I saw lots of people on Twitter and the like expressing joy that marriage equality had finally been achieved. Certain fatuous windbags even went so far as to declare bigotry dead. When, of course, both statements are far from true.
Here in New York and now in California, today looks like finality. "Each time we go out of town, our living will is literally on our list of things to pack," said a woman with her wife at a jubilant Stonewall Inn today. "My life has changed completely." And, sure, DOMA might have died, but completion this is not, no matter what the big-city picture looks like. And, sure, friends who got married in a bespoke restaurant in the Flatiron or on some Napa vineyard are in good shape — federally recognized and all that — but they're not everyone. The coasts are centers of media and money, and thus gaze and glare, so their sudden marriage equality may make it all too easy for many people, myself included, to slip into a lull, a sense of complacency that assures us that things are finally taken care of.
Amidst all the togetherness and celebration, it's important, if a bit of a downer, to remember that we've still miles to go before the country is where it should be on this issue. And even the notion that it is simply "this" issue, and not also many others, is forgetting the larger struggle. "Struggle" is a difficult and maybe even grandiose word, but aspects of the gay acceptance movement are that hard, that gritty, that fraught and crucial. Marriage has been a good rallying point, but there are other, less tangible problems that need addressing, too. By narrowing the current mainstream focus to this one undeniably important and symbolic cause, something great has been wrestled into existence. But we shouldn't take our celebration and go home, figuring our work done. Especially those of us who live relatively comfortably in places where things are looking pretty well taken care of.
I might be being unnecessarily scolding, or merely reacting to a small subset of people I know who seemed a bit too definitive in their reactions today. But let's hope that starting tomorrow the work in other states — even where anti-equality politicians and policies seem overwhelmingly intractable — will pick up right where it left off. And that other issues — those pertaining to trans people and young people and sick people and at-risk people — won't be lost in the shuffle. Of course there are tireless heroes working right now to address all those concerns and more. But the broader public sentiment, the collective will that perhaps gave a few dogged and genuinely courageous people the extra push to go and get things done, hopefully won't settle or go diffuse because of today's significant victory. There are many queer people in America who are still grasping for change, still, yes, struggling for basic rights and protections. They shouldn't feel ignored in favor of other, perhaps flashier and more visible, victories.
It's an ebullient mood in New York City today. And likely in Los Angeles, and Seattle, and Boston. And I'm sure spirits are high in Atlanta and Houston and, hell, Ponca City, too. But their work isn't done yet. Meaning ours isn't either.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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