NEW YORK–YES WE DID!, I wrote in giant letters on my Facebook page on election night, tears in my eyes as I watched Barack Obama’s inspiring acceptance speech. Every moment of it was so moving. And when I heard my African-American friends talk about the symbolism of this day, that they can look into their children’s eyes and honestly say that we are all now truly equal, as a lifelong civil rights activist, I thought, it has happened. We have arrived. We shall overcome, TODAY.
In Session anchor Lisa Bloom
Then I remembered my gay friends, who faced ugly ballot measures in four states. The California Supreme Court just last May issued a landmark ruling that gay people were entitled to equal marriage rights. My mother, Gloria Allred, was one of the lead attorneys in that case.
I remembered Del Martin and Phyllis Lyons, together for 55 years, who were the first couple married after that decision, one in a wheelchair, the other walking slowly to the altar. “At our age,” they said, “we don’t have the luxury of time.”
I remembered that on the day of that decision, citizens of San Francisco’s Castro District took down their rainbow flags and flew American flags. “For the first time in my life,” they told me, “I feel like a full citizen. I can tell my children that in the eyes of the law I am just as worthy as anyone else.”
I remembered riding in Santa Monica’s gay pride parade alongside my mother in June, getting mobbed by thousands of ordinary people who were grateful that she had won for them the extraordinary privilege of simple respect.
Symbolism matters to disenfranchised people in a way that is hard to explain to those of us who always knew we could be anything we want to be in America. Forget president. Gay people can’t even be spouses, though Britney Spears could have her umpteenth marriage tomorrow just by stumbling into a quickie Vegas chapel. Scott Peterson has the legal right to marry on death row after murdering his wife and unborn child.
No matter how undeserved, straight people never lose the right to marry; no matter how worthy, gay people cannot earn it. Except in Massachusetts and Connecticut which, bless them, seem to be sticking to their pro-gay marriage court rulings.
On November 4, the legality of gay marriage was on the ballots in Florida, California and Arizona. Voters in Florida and Arizona passed similar measures specifying that only marriage between one man and one woman will be recognized in those states.
It looks like California voters have amended the state constitution to, for the first time, take away constitutional rights granted by the courts. Arkansas voters banned gay people from becoming adoptive or foster parents. For gay people, it’s a return to the back of the bus. Especially for millions of gay Californians, this lurch backwards is a kick in the gut, because they had enjoyed six months of marriage equality. They had thought their time had come.
And so my celebration of Obama’s sweeping electoral victory is tempered by the reality that not all of us are considered equal in this country, not here, not yet. How sad that at this great moment of inclusiveness in American history, gay people are left behind.
To my gay brothers and sisters, friends, neighbors and coworkers, I say, you are not forgotten. Keep fighting. Decent people stand with you. To gay teens I say, hold your heads high. To elderly gay folks I say, my heart breaks that you must continue to wait for the rights, the respect and common decency that should be yours now.
Obama’s victory is transcendent, but can we still do more to include every American in the protection of our laws? Yes, we can.
–Lisa Bloom, In Session anchor