Late last Friday, New York became the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage. Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Washington, D.C., have already secured marriage equality. Only 44 more states to go.
This is truly a moment to celebrate. New York is the most populous state to extend equal marriage rights to same-sex couples. Once the law is in effect, the number of LGBTQ people with the right to marry in the U.S. will double. As one of the early participants in the Civil Marriage Collaborative, a donor collective aimed at securing marriage equality in all 50 states, the Open Society Foundations has played an important role in the fight for marriage equality. Freedom to Marry and the Empire State Pride Agenda, both grantees of the Civil Marriage Collaborative, were instrumental in public education campaigns in New York.
As we celebrate, we should also remember those who brought us the LGBTQ movement—people who showed us that to be queer was not to be less human or objects of scorn and ridicule. Let’s not forget that Stonewall was brought to us not by wealthy political fundraisers and horse trading, but by creativity, longing to be treated with basic dignity, and the absolute fabulousness of drag queens and transgender people in New York City.
While the NY legislature embraced marriage equality this session, it shelved GENDA, an act which would prohibit discrimination based on gender identity in employment, housing, health care, public accommodations, and education. We should continue to support our transgender communities in the quest to be free from violence and discrimination based on gender identity.
Finally, in the post-campaign, armchair quarterbacking of the political strategy that finally garnered bipartisan support for marriage equality, we should remember that in this same session public funds for health and human services were severely cut. There’s also now a cap on property taxes—ask any Californian how that’s worked out for education and health and human services. LGBTQ youth still comprise 40 percent of homeless young people and remain daily targets of violence and harassment in schools. And, if the tenor of the debate in the chambers and in the halls of Albany were any indication, we need to do so much more to foster civil and informed dialogue about policies affecting LGBTQ people.
Still, I want to be clear that this moment is one I celebrated. It also made me happy and proud to be part of the Open Society Equality and Opportunity Fund. We support the marriage equality movement and also remain committed to the most vilified and shunned members of the LGBTQ community. We support marriage as one small step towards equality—not the end game.