June 26, 2015, was the best day ever, as my 17-year-old son would say. That was the burden-lifting day the SCOTUS declared the 14th Amendment required same-sex marriage equality the law of our great land.
I was stunned. I’d been sporting this beautiful necklace for a long time. And then it was just done. I mean, not done done. The legal stuff was done. The bigotry continued, but didn’t it seem like a case of just needing the old bigots to die out? That said — I keep having to say this! — we obviously were headed down the right side of history.
I kinda thought we’d won this battle. It was such a huge step. It was a right-side-of-history step. That was good enough. So I took the necklace off. I ran across it at some point last year and was a little sad. Because I really love this necklace and a sweet friend from church made it.
But what’s an activist to do? We’d won the battle. Onto other things. Right side of history things.
Until the universe handed us a huge fucking dose of JK on November 8.
So today, I’m putting the necklace back on. And what I’ve woke to in the past 20 weeks since Trump was elected (that number shocks me every single week) is that I never should’ve taken it off. I was boxing in this necklace and it’s movement.
My LGBTQ friends didn’t get equality on June 25, 2015. They got the access to equality. Just like women didn’t get equality with the 19th Amendment on April 18, 1920. And African-American (men) didn’t get equality with the 15th Amendment on March 30, 1870. And African-American men and women still didn’t get equality with the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965. They got access to equality. Same with slaves after the 13th Amendment was ratified on December 6, 1865. Access to equality. Better than slavery. Better than three-fifths. Not equal to non-slaves.
I do not mean to in any way belittle the importance of any of these votes or dates. They are lifeblood to equality. But they are not the end of the fight for equality.
On Saturday, I head to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the equality we have here is something women/gays there could not even imagine. In every possible way, it is clear when you are in Congo that worldwide equality is not a thing. It is clear that “woman” and “work animal” are interchangeable in many societies. It is clear that if women there had an education and birth control, they would have access to equality. I help run a sewing school that gives 40 women every eight months access to equality they have never known.
Yes, difference cultures. But it has become clear to me that I was willing to gloss over a number of inequalities my own country before November 8. Because we had access to and were getting there.
Yes, some of our inequality battles are cultural. But some are not. Equal pay should not be cultural. Our right to an legal abortion should not be cultural. Marriage should not be cultural. Human rights should not be cultural. We are not three-fifths US citizen or 80% a US citizen.
I wrote an pissy and tearful post on Facebook the day after the election. In the face of “get over it” and “snowflake” and some religious right bullshit, I wrote that this is what I was fighting for with my HRC vote: “Inclusiveness, opportunities for all Americans (and those who come to us from troubled lands), love of our country and planet, safety, and religious, press, and personal freedom.”
Equality. Legally. Culturally. That (in the MLK and Urban Dictionary sense) is the dream.