There was dancing in the streets in Pittsburgh, and many other cities around the country last week when the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act. Marriage for same sex partners will not soon be available throughout the US, but major bricks in the legal barriers preventing it have been torn down. DOMA became law in 1996, the year before my then 31-year old gay son died of AIDS. In those days, people like my son were closeted, most to the larger outside world, and many to their own families. Members of the general public often maintained they didn’t know any gay people.
Seventeen years later, nine million people in the US identify openly as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, 3% of our total population. The public celebrations around the country on June 26th demonstrated the increasingly strong support these brave men and women have earned for themselves and their cause. It gets harder and harder to look at LGBT people as being different than the rest of us, as they speak out regarding their desire to love and be loved and to create a life together that can be recognized as a legal marriage.
But it is the families of gay and lesbian people that have come to the front in this day and time. There have always been parents whose children were gay, (even if the parents didn’t realize it) but now there are children with gay parents. As Justice Anthony Kennedy pointed out in his majority opinion, “DOMA humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples. The law in question makes it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives.
I rejoice that this has happened as quickly as it has. But things have not moved swiftly enough for this warrior mother who, in the mid-1990s wanted for her gay son what he wanted for himself – that it be ok that the love of his life was a man, and that he would be able to marry and have children. My son was hopeful and perhaps a prophet when he believed that someday there would be a cure for AIDS and that someday, gay people like himself would be able to marry. Neither of these developments occurred in time for him. But wherever he is now, I like to imagine that he and his fellow compatriots know that our culture is well on its way toward both goals, and they’re dancing in the streets with us.