Saturday, June 25, 2011

I LOVE New York!

It's cloudy and gloomy out, Betty puked her Friskies up all over the kitchen floor, Michael has to go to work early and is grumpy, but this is probably one of the brightest mornings I've ever seen in 20 years living in New York.

The New York State Senate passed a bill legalizing same sex marriage 33 yay to 29 nay. America's most dysfunctional state legislature (New Jersey and Texas are close contenders for that title) with a Republican controlled senate just granted marriage equality to the city with the largest LGBT population (numerically, though not proportionally) in the USA. The gay population in the USA with full access to marriage rights doubled as of last night.

And it's been a long long road.

Even though the Stonewall riots happened in New York City 42 years ago, this was one of the last major cities to grant even basic civil rights protections in employment and housing to its LGBT citizens. A civil rights bill for LGBTs was first introduced into the City Council in 1970, and it wasn't passed until 1986. For 16 years, the bill died in committee or was quickly voted down on the floor. The New York Archdiocese through its surrogates on the City Council and in the police and firefighter's unions made sure basic civil rights protections for gays and lesbians never saw the light of day. Mayor Koch didn't get behind the bill and push for its passage until his last term as mayor. The state government in Albany was an even longer ordeal. It was a struggle just to get LGBTs included in the state's hate crimes legislation.

And now this from a legislature where the Republicans controlled the senate for almost 50 years. Who woulda thunk it? Happily, I was completely wrong about what would happen with this bill. Despite the aggressive push by Governor Cuomo II, despite repeated passage in the state Assembly every session the bill has been introduced, despite being just a few votes shy of a majority in the Senate for so long, I was convinced that the Republicans would scuttle it at the last minute. I think they tried, but this time they failed. The Governor kept all the Dems on board except Ruben Diaz, and 4 of the Republicans decided to switch for a variety of reasons from conscience to narrow wins in largely Democratic districts in upstate cities ( I suspect that some of them did not take kindly to being threatened).

So thanks to Governor Andrew Cuomo for really pushing for this legislation and making it a priority. Your father certainly didn't support it when it came up 20 years ago. Thanks for not walking in his footsteps. Thanks to the Assembly, thanks to all but one of the Senate Dems, and thanks especially to the 4 Republicans who crossed the aisle on this issue. Special thanks to Senator Tom Duane who worked on this legislation for many years in the face of so much disappointment and frustration. Thanks to Evan Wolfson, and to all the organizations and activists, folks doing everything from lobbying to just showing up to see that this bill finally passed. Thanks also to our enemies for being so obsessed, so unhinged, and for being so repulsive. Above all, I'm so glad this was done through legislation rather than through a court order.

I think what really made the difference here and in all the successes in the advance of LGBT freedom and dignity is rank and file gays, lesbians, bis, and transgenders. Ours was never a leader-driven movement. If anything, gay politics tends to devour its leaders and be ferociously factional, divided along every kind of line you can think of. And despite all that, we've had some amazing successes and this is the latest one. The dramatic and continuing shift in public opinion is certainly not the work of HRC or Empire Pride, or Lambda Legal or the Log Cabins, and certainly not GOProud (Gaydom's own little Vichy that opposes marriage rights). This tidal shift in opinion was not inevitable like the tide. It is the creation of every gay, lesbian, bi, and transgender who has ever come out of the closet, now, then, and always. Every single person who comes out is a leader with at least 10 more behind. Every person who comes out puts a face on an "issue," and turns an abstract ideological argument into a concrete personal struggle in which everyone around that person becomes involved and has a personal stake. An "issue" turns out to be a son or daughter, a parent, a relative, a friend, a colleague, a neighbor, an acquaintance, and then it's no longer abstract. That's why our hetero friends have stayed there with us in the trenches, because they've figured out that our fight is their fight too, and it's personal. All of those individual steps out of closetdom, in all of their infinite variety, add up to a huge shift in the historical tide. And now, it really is making history.

So far in New York, Love Conquers All.

Today New York, tomorrow California, and someday soon (gasp!), Texas!

Sorry folks, I just couldn't make up my mind which version of this song to post, so I posted them all.

**A note about the song. According to Ira Gershwin, this was the last song George ever wrote. They wrote it together in 1937 for Sam Goldwyn's attempt to remake himself as a new Flo Ziegfeld in The Goldwyn Follies which opened after George Gershwin's death. George knew he was dying of brain cancer when he wrote this song. But I think it has a power and poignancy all its own even without that knowledge. He was a masterful songwriter and musician all the way to the end.

Michael and I in a photo from about 5 years ago that I keep in my wallet.


June Butler said...

Congratulations to you and to all New Yorkers, Doug. I'm very happy for you. Yesterday was a good day, and many more good days will follow.

David@Montreal said...

Wonderful news Doug.

Though as a friend in Toronto remarked this morning, we've had full rights and protection under Canadian law for so long, too many LGBT Canadians forget just what a gigantic difference it makes.

Can we possibly hope this might inspire a whole new series of paintings for you?

Rainy day in Montreal, but we're celebrating with and for you!

Mary Clara said...

Doug, thanks for this great post. Love the pic of you and Michael! As a one-time New Yorker I too feel extra love for New York today. I keep breaking out in tears thinking about you and other dear New Yorkers and my darling Uncle Bill, who didn't live to see this day but who was part of the army of activists that prepared the way for it.

It feels to me like a tipping point. Not just because New York is an important and populous state, but because of the political skill and strategy that went into it, a model that I think could be applied elsewhere. Hopefully in a year or two Maryland will follow. I gather that part of Gov. Cuomo's strategy was to create conditions in which legislators could afford to vote their consciences rather than being at the mercy of the right-wing fear machine. Would love to see President Obama follow suit on getting DOMA repealed!

Counterlight said...

Thanks Mary Clara, and thanks to your Uncle Bill whose long work came to fruition at long last. He may not be here, but surely he knows and finds gratification.

Thanks to so many who worked so hard and suffered so much, and who did not live to see this day.

JCF said...

{Voice of your Genderqueer Jewish Mutha in California}

So, um, Doug . . . now that you and Michael can . . .


[I suspect you two will want to discuss this, first! ;-)]

Unknown said...

God richly bless NY for this step!

Counterlight said...

Michael and I are certainly discussing plans, but we will not be part of the mad rush on City Hall as people race to be The First.

Expect City Hall to be a zoo when this law goes into effect at the beginning of August.

Anonymous said...

By the way, Michael is cute as all get out! Blessings on you both.


Counterlight said...

I agree.

JCF said...

Take your time, You Krazy Kids...

But be careful w/ the "zoo" analogies: I'm sure the Haters are already predicting Man-on-Zebra as it is! ;-X