After the initial thrill of winning marriage equality the question some are now asking is, “How has your world changed since we won two weeks ago?” The answer for many is not much.
There is no question seeing the White House lit up in rainbow colors was a high. Those who stood in front of the Supreme Court the day the decision was announced will surely never forget that experience. Suddenly what we fought for over decades was a reality. I cried when I saw pictures of couples in Texas, young and old, take advantage of the chance to say ‘I do.’ One couple had been together for more than 50 years and looked so cute.
But for most of us the initial excitement of the day has worn off and our daily lives haven’t changed much. The news cycle comes so fast these days within a day we were more focused on what the Greek people would do on their referendum regarding default. We were afraid to look at our 401k accounts. Most of us were more worried about whether it will cause us to work longer before we can afford to retire than about getting married or even whether the people of Greece will be able to afford rent and food.
We know we will still read about kids being bullied in school and transgender persons being beaten in the street. We will still hear about the young gay boy or girl ending up on the street, homeless, because their parents threw them out when they came out to them.
So how do we deal with the fact most of us are really kind of selfish? Is that something terrible or just human nature? It is natural to get caught up in the daily grind; going to work, paying the rent or the mortgage, looking at what to do on Saturday night, and trying to figure out where to go on our next vacation.
There are people out there who have a responsibility to start planning, if they haven’t yet, for what comes next for the LGBT community. That includes those who run our national civil rights groups including the Human Rights Campaign, The Task Force and PFLAG, among others. They need to question what impact the marriage equality ruling will have on them. How do they move forward after the two biggest fundraising issues, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and marriage equality, are basically settled? Evan Wolfson has smartly announced that Freedom to Marry will close. It has accomplished its mission. He needs to be congratulated not only for all his work on the issue but as one of the few leaders to close an organization after its mission is accomplished.
HRC has tried to plan ahead by announcing its support for a comprehensive civil and human rights bill in Congress. Instead of just ENDA, this bill will in essence try to add sexual orientation and gender identity to protected classes under Title 7, which is basically the bill Bella S. Abzug (D-N.Y.) introduced in 1974. They know this won’t be easy. Those who have fought marriage equality will now fight to keep such a bill from passing without a religious exemption big enough to drive a Mack truck through. HRC hopes this proposed bill will help it raise money for years to come. But it has nowhere near the appeal of DADT or marriage and it will be hard to keep the money flowing.
So the answer is each one of us will have to take the initiative, be a little less selfish, and dedicate some time and money working for the good of the community. Those of us in cities like New York, Washington D.C., San Francisco, whose lives are largely free of discrimination, will have to step up to the plate. But being less selfish means we also need to recognize even in these cities there are many who don’t have everything. Members of our community, people of color, transgender people and young people need our help but also need to be seen and heard. They need to be included at the table. It will take our whole community, working together, if we are to successfully take the next steps toward equality. We can’t leave anyone behind.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT and Democratic Party activist.