In My Lifetime

If you’ll pardon me some personal reflections…

In the spring of 2003, a group of friends and I went down to City Hall in New Haven for a hearing on a bill that would have created a domestic partnership for the city. I was eighteen, and I was young, and I thought we would win, easily. Surely this tiny step forward was a non-issue in a Northeastern city. I was wrong. I felt tiny and alone in a sea of the bill’s opponents, who ranged from Latino church congregants to Orthodox Jewish students.

I went home, and we started organizing. Students and city residents got together to start an organization called Project Orange: in New Haven, Orange Street lies between Church and State Streets. We flooded City Hall’s steps with emergency vest-colored t-shirts. We made so many signs. When the vote came on the bill, we made our presence felt on the news. It turns out not to be enough. We lost again. There’s news footage of me crying and holding a homemade sign as the decision comes down, sitting next to my dear friend Josh Eidelson, who grew up to be an awesome Salon and In These Times labor reporter.

That summer, I went home to Boston to alternate between interning at Freedom to Marry Massachusetts and working at Barnes & Noble. Evan Wolfson, who will someday be enshrined in the pantheon of America’s great civil rights leaders, taught me why “marriage equality” was a better term than “gay marriage.” I was at my shift at Barnes & Noble when the decision in Lawrence v. Texas came down, and celebrated with customers there, and at City Hall Plaza in Boston later.

Nine years ago, the big victory was finally decriminalizing sex between people of the same gender. Nine years ago, a Board of Alderman in Connecticut couldn’t pass a domestic partnership bill. Gay couples have the right to marry in Connecticut now. The president of the United States has spoken aloud that he supports marriage equality. We could have a marriage equality plank in the Democratic platform this year. It’s not enough. This is so far from done. But this is so much more than I believed was possible in 2003. And it’s a lot of why I believe in the power of stories to change things. Whether it’s Joe Biden’s conversion via Will & Grace, or the courage of everyone who’s told their personal story to family, friends, or their boss, the President of the United States, the lives of gay Americans are undeniably real, and loving, and worth honoring.