“We must scrupulously guard the civil rights and civil liberties of all citizens, whatever their background. We must remember that any oppression, any injustice, an hatred, is a wedge designed to attack our civilization” – Franklin D Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States of America.
The statement above coincides with that of New York Senator Mark Gristani after signing into law the bill permitting the marriage of same-sex couples, “I cannot deny a person, a human being, a taxpayer, a worker, the people of my district and across this state,the great state of New York….the same rights I have with my wife”. This bill, enacted today, the 24th of July, marks a momentous occasion for the gay community as New York becomes the 6th state to allow gay marriage. Along with Connecticut, Massachusetts, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Vermont, New York is the largest state to permit same-sex marriage. The bill was passed on June 24th, with a vote of 33 to 29.
The passing of this bill reflects the evolution of society towards the acceptance of same-sex unions. In 2004, only 37% of New York’s population supported same-sex marriage but the Quinnipiac poll now suggests that as much as 58% of the population does. New York, the birthing place of the gay rights campaign, has now become a symbolic and poignant illustration of the future for all gay citizens in all states. New York will serve as a stepping stone towards the hopeful shift, on a national level, towards acceptance.
Furthermore, the success of the bill can easily be seen by the turnout of gay couples hoping to be married today. With an overwhelming number of marriage requests estimated at 1,728, the city was forced to announce a lottery in which those selected would be able to be married. The 823 winners, though significantly less, still marks a record high in the history of the city, leaving the previous record of 623 (Valentines Day) way behind.
Along with the passing of the bill, the gay community has had a very large media presence this month due to liberal practices being enacted by the White House. Along with the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” (being enacted in mid-September”, President Obama has further endorsed the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. This act serves as a current blockade to the national acceptance of same-sex unions as it defines marriage as the union of men and women. Instead, Obama publicly supports the Respect for Marriage Act which states that the federal government should not deny gay couples the right to marry. Though most politicians are skeptical of the repeal being successful, it does mark a starting point for the gay community as it demonstrates the federal government as being willing for change. Coupled together with the inability of the military to continue its policies of persecuting gays and lesbians in the military, the federal government is taking actions to combat the “wedge designed to attack our civilization”.
As a country founded on community and fellowship, hatred and ignorance have for too long held back the potential of America to serve as a true beacon of the equality each citizen has.