It feels different when you gain the same rights as your fellow peers; like a fresh coat of paint on an old house. The bones are good but it could use a few upgrades. That’s the state of the LGBTQIA+ community then, when we gained the right to marry but there is still room for improvement as so many continue to face discrimination of the rights most Americans are privileged to have. As our community continues to fight, I want to reflect on the milestones we now celebrate.
June 24, 2011, New York State signed the Marriage Equality Act becoming the sixth state of the fifty to allow gay marriage. I was 22 at the time and newly involved with my wife and I was ecstatic. I can remember getting serious with her and having thoughts of marriage come up with a cloud of uncertainty. How would we do it? Would it ever be legal? Would I have the same legal rights in our union that everyone else I had ever seen marry have? We were nowhere near ready to get married but we were both elated to have the option to dream freely and not question the loopholes we’d have to find to have the progression of our relationship like everyone else could.
Despite, the federal law for Marriage Equality being passed in 2015, the reality is still very much that the states often decide the quality of lives that our community has regardless of legality that lives in the black and white. People still continue to face discrimination in too many daily settings, leaving a lot of us to have to continue to plan our lives around the likelihood of acceptance of others. When picking a living situation, we have to search for gay-friendly spaces, what the politics are, and how organized religion plays a role in the place we may want to live. The states still sometimes have the subtle control of how the law is received and it makes me sad to think that so many of us have to go through this leaving us to question if we can live openly or have to hide out of necessity for safety or need. My hope is that one day that our community can take ownership of the cherished American Dream.
As a New Yorker, I find myself in a place of privilege and freedom to live my loudest truth. Often our rights are championed, the acceptance is apparent. This law helped the path to a federal decision and remains some of the earliest examples of victories in our fight as one family. It is this law that allowed my marriage to be valid and my freedom of choice to remain regardless of who I loved. I’m feeling especially thankful today to be a bi-sexual New Yorker and proud to be married to my beautiful wife for the last year and a half.