It’s hard to believe, given the recent support of President Barack Obama for the civil and human rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and the transgendered (LGBT), that it was less than 45 years ago (June, 1969) New York City police were again raiding The Stonewall Inn, harassing, arresting and even beating patrons.
Their crime? There wasn’t one.
The reason? The Stonewall was a prominent gay bar and club, a hangout for drag queens and hustlers to some from an emerging transgender community. And, while incidents of police brutality against the LGBT community had been documented in some of America’s major cities as early as 1959, this night was different. The patrons, mirroring New York’s diversity, fought back.
The gay genie was out of the bottle!
Fast forward to May 9, 2012. The 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, announced, “I think same-sex couples should be able to get married. I’ve always been adamant that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly.”
Obama kicked public awareness/acceptance of marriage equality into high gear. The covers of the nation’s major magazines competed for which could best portray Obama’s historic announcement. Editorial pages commended the President and asked why it took so long for him to “evolve.”
On May 19, the NAACP’s (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) board of directors made the announcement that the 103-year-old black civil rights group will support same-sex marriage. The directors said it was a “continuation of its historic commitment to equal protection under the law.” Roslyn M. Brock, chairman of the board, reaffirmed, “The mission of the NAACP has always been to ensure political, social and economic equality of all people. We have and will oppose efforts to codify discrimination into law.”
On CNN with Wolf Blitzer, Colin Powell, the retired four-star Army General, voiced support for President Obama’s decision. Powell said, “In terms of the legal matter of creating a contract between two people that’s called marriage, and allowing them to live together with the protection of law, it seems to me is the way we should be moving in this country. And so I support the president’s decision.”
Powell then put even more distance between himself and conservative Republicans by adding, “I have a lot of friends who are individually gay but are in partnerships with loved ones, and they are as stable a family as my family is and they raise children. And so I don’t see any reason not to say that they should be able to get married under the laws of their state or the laws of the country.”
What? Love, marriage, stable families, children? I’m sure many Republicans thought, “Has Powell lost his mind?”
On May 22, the New York-based publisher of Marvel Comics announced that the first openly gay hero, Northstar (Canadian character Jean-Paul Beaubier) will marry his beau, Kyle Jinadu, in the pages of “Astonishing X-Men” No. 51.
On May 24, U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken, a Clinton appointee to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, held that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and a provision of tax law unconstitutionally limit same-sex couples and domestic partners from participating in the long-term care plan offered by the California Public Employees Retirement System, or CalPERS.
And, on May 30 in Dallas, shareholders for the ExxonMobil Corp. will vote on a resolution to include sexual orientation and gender identity in the equal employment opportunity policy for its estimated 82,000 workers – a change the company has resisted. The resolution is being put before shareholders by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
The New York State Common Retirement Fund, of which DiNapoli is a trustee, owns more than 16 million shares of ExxonMobil at an estimated market value of $1.3 billion. In the past three years, DiNapoli has reached agreements with 27 companies to adopt new non-discrimination policies.
Acceptance cannot be legislated. If it could, women, blacks and others would not be having such a hard and long struggle. Comparably, the LGBT community, though it has a long way to go (Remember May 8 in North Carolina?) has moved forward quickly.
May has been amazing!
Carl Matthes is a native of Los Angeles and has lived in Eagle Rock for over 40 years. He is a former president and a current Board member of Uptown Gay and Lesbian Alliance. He is a former columnist and a current advisor to the Lesbian News, the oldest lesbian publication in America. He was editor of the GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) newsletter and a former GLAAD National Board member. He has also been a Board member of AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
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