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GCCR’s Bill Harrison: What The End of DOMA and Prop 8 Means To Me As an Activist

This has been our basis for tangible change: permitting folks to get to know us.

BillHarrison | June 27, 2013

I love believing there is a heaven and I also love believing Thea Spyer is reaching down and hugging that wonderful spouse of hers, Edie Windsor. These two women couldn’t have known the tremendous impact that their relationship would have on our world. That is probably also true for Windsor, when she began her long legal journey of challenging the injustices of DOMA. There is no better lesson for our community than to see how one person can make a difference for so many.

I spoke with a few friends today who have been involved with our movement since the 1960’s and 70’s. One was active in the 1950’s. It is people such as these that we need to offer our thanks. We all stand on the shoulders of the freedom fighters that came before us. The brave individuals, who went public when there was absolutely no protection for them, are so often forgotten. It is our job to remember.

Like a lot of people, I have spent much of my day reading Facebook posts, on-line articles and editorials. I think many of us are still in shock. Who expected this complete victory? I love this dream. Don’t wake me up.

Our triumphs today have been a long time coming. I’d be willing to bet that the Supreme Court justices who voted in our favor, have come to know LGBT people, not just on superficial planes, but on real, meaningful levels. This has been our basis for tangible change: permitting folks to get to know us. It’s much more difficult to toss someone aside due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, after one has already learned to like and respect them.

This enormous victory is a joyous day for married couples and their families. The Court affirmed that all loving and committed couples who marry deserve legal respect and treatment. For thousands of married lesbian and gay couples, the ruling means that they can better protect one another and their children because they will finally be included in the federal safety net.

The Supreme Court also struck California’s Proposition 8, stating it served no purpose other than to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples. Freedoms such as marrying should never be taken away by popular vote.

This decision adds to the snowball effect our movement has experienced in the last few years. We will continue to work for freedom to marry. We cannot forget our battle with the Virginia General Assembly to make employment discrimination illegal, based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It is unthinkable that this discrimination is still legal, but it is not ridiculous to think that we can change minds in our legislature.

Progress like that does not happen overnight, but look at the headway we have already realized. The recent installation of Judge Tracey Thorne-Begland, office holders attending our functions and seeking our backing and the support of a city council are but three wins that many of us can remember at one time thinking impossible.

Today is one more resounding signal that those who are against us are on the losing side. It is also an indication that total justice will be ours. The wheels of justice turn much quicker when the noise makers are loudest. Join in the chorus. Make some noise. Make a difference.