I remember the August 2009 day fairly well. I was back home finally after a very long first year of law school. It was a typical Southern California day, bright, warm, temperate without any humidity, with just a slight breeze in the air. I was in Beverly Hills that day and I decided to walk from my dad's office to lunch. As I walked through the streets of the Triangle, something highly unusual happenned. I was stopped by teenagers in high school who were volunteering for a political cause to sign me up for a grassroots campaign they were working on. What political cause was this? They were volunteers for Equality California looking to sign people up for an effort to repeal Proposition 8. I politely told them I was already on board and kept walking.
Then it hit me. When do teenagers in Southern California ever get involved in grassroots political causes? I'm in my mid 20s so it wasn't all that long ago that I was in high school and not only are kids in Southern California generally not political but it would truly be a rarity to see teenagers getting active in political causes (even if they cared about them), especially the well off youth of Beverly Hills and West LA. The fact that these teenagers cared enough about marriage equality to go out and spend their summer day volunteering spoke volumes. There was a time when LGBT people struggled just for basic tolerance. Yet, today we have moved from tolerance to acceptance to activism.
I can barely believe it myself but it's been 5 years since I wrote a diary about National Coming Out Day on Daily Kos. Looking back at the state of our civil rights movement then, all I can say is what a MASSIVE difference 5 years can make.
Fall of 2006 seems like it was just yesterday really. Yet when I think about how much has changed in those 5 years for LGBT Americans (and LGBT people around the world), I am struck by how much has gotten better and how much our movement for sexual orientation equality has accomplished.
Why just five years ago:
-There was only one state where same-sex marriage was legal.
-No court in the country recognized sexual orientation as a suspect classification.
-There were no public holidays anywhere for LGBT Civil Rights heros.
-No openly LGBT people had been appointed to federal courts.
-No major U.S. city had elected an openly LGBT mayor.
-Support for legalized same-sex marriage nationwide was in the 20's.
-Enacting civil unions and domestic partnerships were seen as a major progressive victory.
-No federal legislation existed that prohibited sexual orientation discrimination.
-LGBT persons were prohibited from serving in the military.
-No state had ever elected an openly LGBT leader of a legislative branch.
-No state had ever elected an openly LGBT person to statewide political office.
-No state had ever enacted (let alone contemplated) a law requiring that sexual orientation history be placed in textbooks.
Today, that's all changed. I can remember where I was when I heard about the decision of the Iowa Supreme Court striking down that state's same-sex marriage prohibition and my shocked response. I can remember the excitement I felt when Annise Parker became the Mayor of Houston in 2009 (she's up for reelection this year btw). I am continually shocked to see polls showing increased support for legalized same-sex marriage, over 50% of Americans according to numerous polls. The magnitude of these changes cannot be understated. We've come a long way. Hell, I'm just glad we now have a movement theme song that doesn't involve breaking up with a bad boyfriend (Thanks Lady Gaga!).
It's true that struggles and setbacks will continue to come and they will hurt when they do. Proposition 8 in California and Measure 1 in Maine were definitely setbacks. But we know that in any civil rights movement, struggles and setbacks will occur. Even as those struggles come, we will deal with them and we will understand that the pendulum has swung permanently in our direction. Like any true struggle for justice, fairness, and equality, victory won't come overnight or immediately. Whether it takes another 5 years or another 20, we shall prevail. Si Sue Puede.