It's hard to describe the feelings I'm having this morning; joy, relief, satisfaction, disbelief, justification against denial and censure, justice, and surprisingly, even a little melancholy. Last night, after tedious delays and endless yammering on about religious exemption amendments, the New York Senate passed the Marriage Equality Act with a vote of 33 to 29. This ground-breaking and momentous event makes New York the sixth and largest state in the nation to legalize same sex marriage, and ultimately transforms the gay marriage debate nationwide.
The timing is quite serendipitous, as tomorrow is New York's Gay Pride Parade. And as the parade marches down Fifth Avenue, I can only imagine that this year tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of joyful and proud LGBT New Yorkers and their supporters will celebrate like never before.
For the last couple of years I've avoided the parade as the over-sexualization, product placement, celebration and encouragement of unhealthy life choices (drugs, alcohol, prostitution, etc.) presented as an accurate, all-encompassing representation of gay life has made me more than a little uncomfortable. While the Pride Parade has always been a good excuse to don one's feather boa or black leather harness and hot pants, I remember the Pride Parades in the 80s, when it was much smaller and acted more as a showplace for the bravery and pioneer-ism of the community; gay cops, firefighters, teachers, PFLAG, AIDS organizations, etc. And while those groups have never fully disappeared, they seem to have taken a back seat to the more visually sensational groups of leather men, rent boys, drag queens, go-go boys, celebrity DJs, etc. However, my guess is that last night's victory over statewide legislative discrimination will likely bring some political urgency back to the forefront of the festivities.
As for the surprising and nagging melancholy, I can't help but think of those who have been lost over the years, those who weren't even able to see this fight take shape, let alone witness its victory. Those previously mentioned boyfriends, for example - what might they have thought of this historic legislation? And what might it have meant for us as young lovers had the idea of marriage been a possibility at the time? What measure of profound difference would it have made had the state given our relationship the kind of legitimacy that would've allowed us to be viewed as full citizens, whole people. Bittersweet memories mix with pride of country and hope for future generations.