On June 26 I woke up with a miserable cold.
I wanted to see if there was an update on the long-awaited Supreme Court decisions regarding the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California Proposition 8. After the previous day when SCOTUS had eviscerated the Voters Rights Act of 1965, I was prepared for the worst. Then the news feeds began. Before I heard a word from the reporters, I knew they were bringing good tidings of great joy. In the background, I could see the iconic rainbow flags being waived and that a celebration was taking place.
Suddenly, before my obligatory cup of morning coffee, my pulse began to race and I was wide-awake. I knew we had made progress. DOMA was dead and Prop 8 was vanquished.
On this day, DOMA became a discarded piece of legislation that can only be described as a dinosaur. And by dinosaur, I mean a real one. Not the imaginary ones that conservatives think Adam rode in the Garden of Eden. President Clinton signed it into law in 1996 only because he didn’t want to risk losing reelection. I was pretty pissed at him then but in the bigger picture, I can’t imagine what life would have been like under the reign of future Viagra pitch man Bob Dole.
It’s also important to recognize that DOMA was not the beginning of a period of oppression for the LGBTQ community. It was the beginning of a movement that would empower people and lead us to this day. At that point in our very recent history, the gay community had arrived on a national level as a substantial political force. Even though the people who feared us the most had used us as a bargaining chip, the end result was not what they expected. Instead of feeling used, we were inspired. And ever since the Stonewall Riots in June of 1969, history shows that when the gay community gets inspired, we create change.
In the ensuing years, marriage equality steadily progressed throughout the nation. Voters, governors and state legislations stepped forward and made the decision to embrace the equality mantra by recognizing and sharing a very basic human right with everyone. Gradual progress is often not celebrated in a culture where we constantly find ways to make things happen at the click of a mouse button. For some, every step forward was overshadowed by DOMA, which diminished the win ever so slightly. But that’s all over now and there is no turning back.
Could anything make this win better? Well, how about the deciding opinion belonging to Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Reagan appointee? This only serves to underscore the message that reason and human rights triumphed over a conservative agenda and dogma. As a native Californian, Justice Kennedy grew up in a Roman Catholic family with venerated ties to the legal community. At a glance, his background reads like a Republican punch list for a conservative activist. However, he has been able to separate his Church and State views on many cases and to emerge as the critical swing vote on the Supreme Court. For this action, the LGBTQ community will revere him as a champion of equality.
There really are no negatives here. I remember the despair that I felt in November of 2008 when Prop 8 was passed in California. I was living there at the time and I had worked diligently as a volunteer to get the voters out to defeat this measure. The loss seemed impossible. I suppose that loss had to occur to allow for an even greater victory years later. Finally, a message is being sent on a national level that it is not acceptable to discriminate against citizens based on their sexuality. It also spotlights the fact that those who oppose marriage equality are simply outdated and oppressive.
While South Carolina may appear to be firmly committed to remain one of the 37 states that will not be making the transition to marriage equality, I am not convinced there cannot be change. We have a substantial organization, SC Equality, committed to working for this cause. In the 10 years this organization has existed, positive change has been engulfing the nation. We even have an Equality license plate available at the DMV. I think that shows progress.
One day, the people who promote hate and intolerance will only be a memory. Legal experts predict that an additional 10 states are likely to embrace marriage equality in the very near future. Among these are New Jersey, Illinois and Hawaii. As of today, marriage equality is available to approximately 40 percent of the nation’s population. There is no mistaking the trend. We have had our day in court and we have been recognized as equal.
OUT & ABOUT
Friday, July 5 - First Friday Happy Hour celebrates the 4th of July weekend at Smitty’s Pine Island Pub from 5:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. July 5. Smitty’s is at 364 Robert M. Grissom Parkway, Myrtle Beach. For additional information, visit www.firstfridayhappyhour.org
Friday, July 12 – There will be a Fashion Launch Party at Pulse Ultra Club hosted by Unique Boutique; this show premiers the new seasonal lines and will include a runway show, door prizes and gift bags. You can also meet the new Andrew Christian and Papi underwear models. Cocktails begin at 8 p.m. and the Fashion Show begins at 11 p.m. Pulse is at 803 S. Main St in Myrtle Beach. For more information, visit www.clubpulsemb.com
Saturday, July 13 – CLAWS, the Coastal Leather Allegiance to Wisdom and Service hosts Saturday Night Leather at Club Pulse. The event includes a Leather Gear Yard Sale, a Nutz and Boltz Social Mixer and a raffle. The event will be from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m. For additional information, please visit www.clawsllc.org
Have a thought, comment or Out & About event? Send Drew Levy-Neal an e-mail to Drew.Levy.Neal@gmail.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @Drew_Levy_Neal.