My husband Drew and I breathed a sigh of relief last Wednesday when the United States Supreme Court issued two landmark rulings.
In a 5-4 decision, the court struck down the part of the Defense of Marriage Act that denied same-sex married couples the same benefits enjoyed by straight couples. And in a separate case, it paved the way for gay marriage to once again become legal in California.
The decisions weren't slam dunks. We would have preferred a broad, nationwide ruling on DOMA, forcing states to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. And the California decision only affects that state. Both decisions, however, were solid wins and point the way forward. But we have a long way to go.
Drew and I made travel plans to be in New York City several months ago. At the time, we didn't know whether the Supreme Court would rule in favor of same-sex marriage, but we wanted to be there, in the city. It's where we met and fell in love 15 years ago and later committed to each other in front of friends and family. We returned to celebrate a Gay Pride Weekend that had the potential to be one for the history books.
After the justices struck down DOMA, we wormed our way to the front of a Greenwich Village rally in Sheridan Square, the site of the Stonewall Riots in 1969. There, we watched Edith Windsor, the DOMA case's plaintiff who was handed a federal tax bill of nearly $360,000 following her partner's death, deliver a kick-ass speech to a roaring crowd. We hugged our friends. We got our picture taken in front of the Stonewall Inn. We danced in the streets. We cried.
While the gay community was victorious, our happiness was tempered with the knowledge that others had lost other pivotal battles earlier that week. The Supreme Court disappointed us two days before when they set a higher bar for including race as one of the factors in university admissions. And then they kicked us in the teeth when a majority of justices struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. So our joy was not unrestrained, although we did enjoy a side helping of schadenfreude as we watched some conservative gasbags line up to stamp their feet and express their impotent rage.
As we celebrated our victory for gay rights at New York City's Gay Pride March, we also mourned the recent losses in the fight for racial equality. We're thankful for our allies in this battle and will stand aside them in their fights against racial hostility, misogyny, and homophobia, knowing that as we fight any one of these battles, we are fighting them all.
Drew and I are legally married in New York State, but in Georgia we are currently in legal limbo. Already, Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens has asserted that "the definition of marriage adopted by Georgia's voters is unaffected by today's decision."
There are legal questions to be answered, including how federal benefits will be delivered to Georgia couples, including us, in the 13 states plus Washington, D.C., where same-sex marriage remains unquestionably legal. But the recent rulings undeniably show that the country is moving forward on this issue. We believe full marriage equality throughout America is inevitable.
But the push for same-sex marriage is not the only issue that needs our attention in Georgia. Unfortunately, the state also lags far behind when it comes to workplace discrimination, hate-crime legislation, hospital visitation, anti-bullying laws, parenting, adoption, and gender equality. Tragically, the state faces a deepening crisis in providing HIV/AIDS services and prevention. I was diagnosed HIV Positive 24 years ago and am a long-term survivor. Getting tested was the most important step in my survival.
We moved to Georgia to care for an ill family member. We struggle between our need for the legal protections provided in New York and the pull of familial love. In Georgia we are geographically closer to our family, but have few legal protections. No couple should have to face this dilemma. But we do.
We are not born activists. Drew and I would like nothing better than to mind our own business and spend weekends puttering in our garden, hanging out with friends and family, and nosing around HomeGoods and Home Depot.
We are a rare and fortunate couple. Unlike many gay partners, we enjoy wholehearted and enthusiastic support from our entire families. Our fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends attended our commitment ceremony in Manhattan in 2003. It was the happiest day of our lives.
Drew is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. He served honorably in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. We are both sons of military veterans. We're filled with pride as we remember how our fathers welcomed us warmly, openly and without prejudice into their families, and how movingly they spoke at our commitment ceremony. We hope others get to share such a moment.
After the confetti has cleared from this past Sunday, Drew and I will return to Georgia with renewed commitment for the battles ahead, looking forward to the day when America, a country that values equality and justice for all, recognizes us as full citizens. Even in Georgia. We urge everyone to join us.