My 14-year-old daughter marched with the PETA float in San Francisco’s Pride parade Sunday, wearing a “Vegan Pride T-shirt” and passing out stickers and pamphlets to the thousands of onlookers.
Not all of them were gay, of course. But most were and it had a real impact on my daughter.
“Boy, there are a lot of gay people,” she said quite innocently afterwards, a comment that reflected a new awareness and respect for something she never really thought that much about. But when you’re in a mass of humanity, it’s hard not to feel empathetic, whether your issue is justice for animals, or ethnic minorities. I felt that empathy covering some of the first gay pride parades in San Francisco in the 80s. My daughter was feeling that now.
Some people in their lives never even get that far.
Fortunately, more and more are feeling that breakthrough every day. How else could New York’s Republican-controlled state legislature muster the political courage to pass gay marriage in the state last Friday?
Here’s what I find most astonishing about New York’s achievement. Two years ago Republican senators were a bloc against same-sex marriage when they were the minority. Now a majority, the Republicans not only allowed a same-sex bill to get through the committee, four of them crossed-over to make New York the first legislative body controlled by the GOP to approve gay marriage.
“There is an important change going on among Republicans and conservatives,” said Kenneth Mehlman, the former chair of the Republican National Committee told The New York Times.
Mehlman helped spur that change by coming out after he left the RNC. There have always been gay Republicans in politics. Some were out. Most were closeted. But when the former RNC head comes out and says it’s OK to play hardball, it’s like one of the Pope’s cardinals advocating condoms.
I especially like Mehlman’s line that there’s a growing belief that “freedom to marry is consistent with conservative values.”
Of course it is. Focusing on the wedding part vs. the gay part is always a winning tactic to break the same-sex roadblock. Shacking up and cruising? That’s a liberal cause. What can be more conservative than a wedding?
I wish that worked with the electorate in California for Prop. 8, a setback for same-sex marriage three years ago. But they were still caught up in the polarizing rhetoric of “Adam and Steve.” In fact, that’s the thinking that’s made referendums outlawing same-sex marriage unbeatable. It’s the reason opponents of same-sex marriage aren’t exactly quaking in their boots over New York.
That doesn’t take anything away from the victory in New York. Come July, New York will be the place to be for same-sex marriage.
But the fight for gay marriage practically guarantees full-employment for activists for a lifetime. It’s a state-by-state process, and so far New York is just one of 9 states where it’s legal.
New York does provide a legislative blueprint for others, and a very important symbolic victory.
For those who insist on equality for all, that’s plenty enough for the moment.
It was impossible not to think about New York during San Francisco’s annual Pride celebration. But the fight for same-sex marriage is no parade, but a long, long march.