I was in the second trimester inside my mother’s womb when the Stonewall riots erupted in 1969. I was born at the dawn of the modern fight for gay and lesbian rights in the United States.
I was three years old when the American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder. I was growing up in a world where the medical establishment would not consider me sick.
As a teenager I was frozen by the horrors of AIDS and the clashes between regressive government policies and fearless gay-rights activism. I knew I was attracted to males but amidst this conflagration my future was uncertain.
In my twenties I marched in Pride parades, raised thousands of dollars and bicycled 500 miles to support AIDS-related charitable organizations, and worked at pioneering companies that offered benefits to same-sex domestic partners. Yet as an out gay person I was excluded from serving in the US military and witnessed the odious Defense of Marriage Act become law.
I was living with my partner of nearly eight years in 2003 when the Supreme Court struck down Lawrence v. Texas. It was no longer illegal for me to expressly love someone of the same sex.
During the past ten years, politicians and religious leaders shamelessly made gay people scapegoats in campaigns and pariahs on television and radio across America. They called me immoral. They blamed me for the decline of the country. They accused me of taking away rights of others, corrupting children and destroying marriages and schools and churches.
While this was going on my country didn’t stand up for me. The federal government told me my love didn’t matter and that my relationship wasn’t real. I wasn’t entitled to the same recognition and rights that other couples have. While it collected more taxes from me for the same-sex benefits offered by my employer, it told me that I wasn’t capable of serving my country, that I wasn’t worth protecting if I were fired from a job or denied housing, and that it didn’t matter if I were the victim of a hate crime.
Years ago when I came out to my mother, she told me all she wanted was for me to find someone to love and who would love me in return. She didn’t care if the person were of a different race, from another country, or a man. She and my family promised that the person I chose would be a trusted and equal part of our family — unconditionally and without judgment. They were there for me when my country wasn’t.
But today all that changes. With the two landmark Supreme Court rulings that end major government-sanctioned discrimination against gays and lesbians, I am now an equal part of America’s family. Uncle Sam promises to affirm marriage for my brothers and sisters, to protect us from future injustice, and to treat us fairly through the benefits we pay for and the rights and responsibilities granted to us by the Constitution.
America isn’t perfect — like any family — but it must work to be. Today we have stepped forward. It feels extraordinary and wonderful to finally be an equally included and protected member of our great kindred America.
So today I am thrilled to add this to my chronology:
Forty-three years after the heady days of Stonewall, I rejoiced as the US Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act and cleared the way for California to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The civil rights of gay and lesbian citizens are affirmed. America stands before me with open arms.