In 1993, I was one of those who marched on Washington to support gay rights. It was post Amendment Two, the dark days following Colorado’s referendum that made discrimination against gays and lesbians part of the state’s constitution.
One of the events of that march was a mass marriage, led by Rev. Troy Perry of the Metropolitan Community Church. My partner and I went and participated, chanting the vows with the hundreds of other couples who came together, some who had even thought to pack tuxedos and wedding dresses. My engagement was half-hearted, as my internalized homophobia filtered out the sacred. I cringed with some embarrassment, feeling like I was pretending, that it was all a sham. As we walked away, I said to my partner, “Gay marriage will not happen in my lifetime.”
Today, I salute the dreamers. The visionaries. Those who stepped in sincerely and earnestly that day, holding fearlessly to a vision of possibility. I didn’t have the courage to stand up for what I wanted, and I couldn’t imagine beyond my own fear. I am forever in debt to those who kept going, step by step, hour after hour, slogging through court briefs and endless hearings and obstacles and difficulties, expending time and money and energy and heart. They felt it; they knew it. They understood what it means to reach for the greater good. They kept going. And today I get to celebrate because of them.
I tip my hat to all of them. To the suffragettes who knew votes for women was inevitable, though they died long before they could ever cast a ballot. To the abolitionists, who drummed the cadence of freedom for centuries before the rest of the nation caught on. To the civil rights activists who crumpled under the police batons; to the bra burners who withstood the sneering catcalls . To each person who ever stepped out of what they knew into their own dream. To those who turned and faced into the fire of contempt, derision and hatred that shrank me back.
And I vow, in their names–
–to look up, and not down
–to see the possibilities, not the problems
–to believe in what can be, not what was
–to open my heart and step forward with the courage of those who have gone before me. And those who have been around me all along.