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Killacky: Marriage Equality

09/04/12 5:55PM By John Killacky
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Jonathan Ned Katz
John Killacky in "Coming Out." (1973)
(Host) As the Democratic Convention gets underway this week in North Carolina, commentator John Killacky, executive director of the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, reflects on how far consideration of LGBT rights have come.

(Killacky) In 1973, I attended my first gay pride festival. I was in New York, acting in a play entitled "Coming Out." We were part of the festivities, as was Better Midler. When she came on stage and sang, "Friends," the future seemed resplendent with possibilities.

That was just four years after transvestites and gay men fought back against police intimidation at the Stonewall Inn. Their riot ignited the Gay and Lesbian Rights movement by transforming disenfranchised isolation into a self-affirming political and social force.

In the ‘80s and ‘90s, AIDS ravaged the community. Gays and lesbians created organizations to deliver basic health care services, share information, and educate their own, all while nursing, grieving, and remembering the dead. Their poignant struggles, heroic responses, and resultant social, political, and medical gains are testaments to the power of personal action.

Much more has been realized in the intervening years. AIDS is now a chronic and manageable disease. Gays and lesbians serve openly in the military. Positive role models abound in popular culture. Celebrities arrive on the red carpet, holding hands with their real boyfriends or girlfriends. Larry and I celebrated our domestic partnership in Minneapolis and our marriage in San Francisco is recognized in Vermont. After 17 years together, I legitimately call him my husband.

Vermonters should be proud that we were the first state to offer civil unions in 2000 followed by full marriage rights in 2009. However, basic human and civil liberties are still battleground issues in many states.

This week in Charlotte, the Democratic National Convention adopts a marriage equality plank in its platform. The full embrace of LGBT rights by a major political party in this polarized election cycle is astounding, particularly since various court challenges, pro and con, are wending their litigious way to the Supreme Court. Ironic too, that the meeting is taking place in North Carolina - a state that has a constitutional ban on same sex marriage.

The Democratic Party, in 1980, adopted platform language opposing discrimination against all groups of people - too bad it took them this long to be truly inclusive. I'm sure those fierce drag queens who fought back at Stonewall in the ‘60s and the vehement AIDS activists of the ‘80s, never imagined their struggles culminating in this paradigm shift toward marriage equality. The arc of history is now bent toward social justice because of their righteous acts. As I celebrate what they achieved, I remember how much is left to do.


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