NEW YORK — June 26, 2011. Could it be — gay New Yorkers in 2011 are proud, powerful AND able to wed? In a word, Yes.
Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a “same sex marriage” bill into law at 11:15 p.m. on Friday and although the law won’t take effect until July 24, 2011, New Yorkers took to the streets for one big party. The law was signed on the eve of the 42nd annual gay pride parade and Sunday’s march was festive to say the least. The parade route, New York’s storied Fifth Avenue, was lined with onlookers holding signs that said, “Promise Kept” and “Thank You Governor Cuomo.”
In a political moment where every politician from Mayor Michael Bloomberg to President Obama are discussing how to avoid asking the nation’s wealthy to help pay for the oil wars and Wall Street bailout boondoggles, it is important to recognize a human rights victory when one occurs.
The Left hasn’t had a lot to celebrate in the Bush-Obama era. From domestic spying and racial profiling by law enforcement to offshore torture and three seemingly interminable wars, progressives in these United States have been taking it on the chin for almost a decade. The latest insult to the intelligence — the Bloomberg / Walker / Christie (et al.) argument that somehow teachers, emergency service and public sector workers are to blame for our fiscal problems — is enough to compel even the most generous observer to question the judgment, if not the sanity, our political “leadership.”
As our tax money circles the drain in the Pentagon, as our three undeclared wars grind on, our young people are sent home with TBI, PTSD and missing limbs, only to find no work, a shattered housing market and an all out assault on educators, health care workers and unions. The American Dream? No acronym, euphemism or rosy forecast is big enough to mask the unpleasant reality that is the U.S. today – a nation of downwardly mobile debtors.
And yet, in one state, in one statement, we have cause for celebration.
As the morally, and literally, bankrupt and bipartisan, political leadership looks to turn back the clock in almost all sectors of American life, it is noteworthy that New York has stepped into the 21st Century. And this happened due to the efforts of a Democrat governor who garnered enough Republican support to do the right thing.
Change we can believe in?
In any event, the passage of the marriage law represents a rare moment of sanity. While the pundits are debating whether Obama’s less-than-ambitious plan to return the U.S. troop deployment in Afghanistan to a pre-surge level is “dangerous” and Obama himself dodged the issue of gay marriage (echoing New Jersey’s Bush-lite governor in espousing support for civil unions), Andrew Cuomo stood up. Does this make Cuomo a progressive? No. His austerity measures will hammer working people and the rich will continue to do quite well, thank you.
And yet, a party is in order.
Tom Hayden once noted that the Left needs to recognize and celebrate its rare victories. And that is precisely what we did on Sunday.
And in the midst of the celebration was a group of Veterans For Peace and CodePINK activists reminding us all that those brave souls who stand up for truth and justice, who blow the whistle on war crimes, shouldn’t be imprisoned. They too should be celebrated. It takes courage to come out with the truth. One soldier, who happens to be gay, did just that – and is paying a high price for an act of conscience.
The Bradley Manning Pride Contingent marched along with the other celebrants and in their ranks were several NLN photographers, recording the moment for posterity. As the contingent moved down Broadway onlookers cheered and eagerly took printed materials – materials explaining Manning’s case and demanding his freedom. As the contingent neared Christopher Street, veterans waved their Veterans’ Affairs cards, families flashed peace signs and all of us who marched knew that we were New Yorkers in the company of other New Yorkers – our city remains a place where diversity is celebrated and tolerance is more than a catchphrase.
It sounds trite but Love was in the air. The New York Times described the march as “euphoric.” Even that superlative seems an understatement to this observer.