DOMA and Gratitude

Yesterday was such an incredible day. My twitter and Facebook feeds were blowing up with excitement, support, and the delightful hashtag #loveislove. The overturning of DOMA is a step forward that seemed impossible even a few years ago. But there it was on the page.  In an instant, my marriage is recognized by the United States government.

Several years ago, I was at a conference for law students interested in gay and lesbian issues, and a family law presenter said this to us:

You're thinking about what you want to do after law school. You think maybe you want to work for gay rights?  I'll tell you what to do.  Go to Mississippi or Montana or Alabama and work for families struggling to protect themselves.  Help them get second parent adoptions.  Help them create agreements to formalize their unions.  Fight for them.  Don't move to Massachusetts.  They don't need you there.

I was struck by her words.  I wanted to help.  I wanted to go where I was needed.  And yet, when I graduated, I didn't follow her advice.  I moved to Vermont, where my marriage would be legal and our children would be protected.  I moved to a place where lesbians are a dime a dozen and where I could work on issues that didn't affect my own family.  I didn't want to fight. 

I'm deeply conflict averse.  I've never wanted to be at the forefront of any fights, any issues.  I've given money, I've written a few letters to congress.  I got involved in some organizations.  But I wasn't running out to every gay lobby day.  I wasn't signing up to hash it out with people who disapproved of me or my life.  I always hoped that just being "out" would be enough, would at least make me feel like I'd done my part.  At times even that - being myself - came across to some as a declaration of war, and I panicked and sought some exit from a conflict that I wanted no part of.  I've never been ashamed of being a lesbian.  But I've always known that others didn't necessarily share my views.  Even from the very beginning, my biggest concern has been whether other people would still accept me, would still love me, would still want to share in the joys of my life.  So I stayed back for the most part and tried to find a delicate balance between being out and not ruffling too many feathers.  I have avoided the trenches.

I ramble on about all of that just to say this:

I know what has happened here.  It's the same thing that has happened in countless fights - for civil rights, for freedom, for voting rights, for everything.  A few dedicated, courageous people risked their security, their families, sometimes their lives so that a great many other people could receive the incredible benefits of their work. 

I know who I am in the mix.  So while I cried at my desk yesterday and celebrated with my wife, I know that what I must do more than anything else is say thank you.

Thank you to Edie Windsor and to Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo.  Thank you to Margarethe Cammermeyer and Harvey Milk, to Richard Isay and Janice Langbehn.  Thank you to all the people who have and who continue to work tirelessly day after day to make sure every gay individual and every gay family has equal rights and equal protections. 

You have changed my life.