On March 26 and 27, as the Prop 8 and DOMA cases got underway at the Supreme Court, a tide of HRC red equality signs began to flow across the pages of Facebook as thousands changed their profile photos in support of marriage equality. More has changed, however, than just a few Facebook photos. That “red tide” is only the leading edge of a giant rainbow flag rippling across the nation. There has been a vast shift in attitude in America in recent years, and since last fall’s election, that change feels like it’s moving at the speed of light.
One of my favorite Facebook images during those two days was a dramatic takeoff on the revolution scenes from Les Misérables. In it, all the waving flags had become red equality banners, and the words from that show suddenly became even more personal to me. “Do you hear the people sing? Say, do you hear the distant drums? It is the future that they bring…when tomorrow comes!”
The LGBT revolution has been going on for all of our lives, but now, finally, tomorrow is today!
When I was a boy, like most of the kids my age, I couldn’t understand what the big deal was about interracial marriage. Today, young people feel the same way about gay marriage—even young conservatives! We will not know the outcome of the Prop 8 and DOMA cases for a while yet, but because of that attitude shift among young people, even if the court turns against us for now, the war is almost won. We may have a few battles left, but everywhere we turn, the conversation has changed—the tone has changed. The tide has turned in our favor.
On a recent CBS Philadelphia news show, Delaware Governor Jack Markell was quoted as saying he “would not be surprised if Delaware became the 10th state to legalize gay marriage.” That is certainly the hope and the expectation of everyone working with Equality Delaware—and all the more important because of the very real possibility that DOMA will be judged to be unconstitutional. “We are optimistic,” says EQ Delaware’s Mark Purpura, “that the General Assembly will be on the right side of history and pass marriage equality in 2013.”
I would say that this is an exciting time to be gay, but thinking back over the last half century, all of it has been exciting—sometimes scary, sometimes devastating, sure, but never boring. It all starts with coming out, doesn’t it?
My dad’s health is deteriorating rapidly, and hospice has been called in to make his last days as comfortable as possible. In the process of saying goodbye, I recently found myself remembering the day I went to his office to tell him I was gay. He was, at the time, the senior pastor at the First United Methodist Church in Decatur, Alabama. I was a rebellious teenager. The surprising result? It was not a surprise.
Coming out to ourselves, then to our family and friends is the first step in a lifelong journey. For some, speaking the words “I’m gay,” for the first time is a gut-wrenching experience; for others it just happens. Thinking about that day with my dad so very long ago, opens a floodgate of memories. I’m so grateful for his—and my mother’s—constant love, his support of gay issues in the church, the way he welcomed Steve into our family just has he did for all my sibling’s spouses. Coming out to my dad, and to my family at an early age made it possible for the whole family to “come out” as a family, and to share our lives, our hopes, our dreams, and our vision.
For decades, gay activists have been encouraging everyone to come out of the closet, and not just because it’s the healthiest thing for us to do for ourselves. It also meant that we were making ourselves known in the world around us. None of the good stuff happening in gay rights today would have been possible without LGBT people standing up all around the globe and saying, “hey, this is me, this is who I am.” Once we were visible, once we could be seen as brother, sister, uncle, mother; as doctors and lawyers, teachers, and actors; as next door neighbors and friends, change was inevitable.
Here at CAMP Rehoboth, we’ve been talking a lot lately about “shared vision,” and about what the future holds for us. In a recent CAMP Rehoboth Leadership Council workshop session, the conversation focused on the changes taking place in the world around us (attitudes toward LGBT people, technology, and communication) and what that meant for us as an organization.
What has always been important about the CAMP Rehoboth mission statement is that it calls us to serve the whole community. Certainly, we are the LGBT community center, but CAMP Rehoboth is much more than that. The shared vision that has taken us through the first 22 years of CAMP Rehoboth’s existence is about creating a better world—gay and straight. That vision hasn’t changed.
One of the main arguments of the opposition to marriage equality has been that it would undermine the family. The truth is, every time we share our love and our lives honestly with one another, the quality of life for all of us—for the whole world—is improved. Love creates love, and like the tide of red equality banners that swept Facebook last week, it is visible for all to see.
Murray Archibald, CAMP Co-founder and President of the Board of Directors of CAMP Rehoboth, is an artist in Rehoboth Beach.