Over coffee the other day, two guys told me that they met at the Stonewall Inn a month before the gay rebellion that began on June 28, 1969.
By October, one of the two proposed to the other, and they’ve been together ever since for 53 years.
In 2014, they decided to get married, a few months before the Supreme Court validated marriage equality on June 26, 2015. As Florida residents, they had no option of doing so in their own state, so they drove with a couple of friends to North Carolina where they secured their license and asked to be immediately married by the magistrate. The magistrate, however, was working in the men’s prison that day.
Not wanting to wait, the two men and their friends drove to the men’s prison, asked to see the magistrate, and inquired if he’d be willing to officiate the wedding that day. “Yes,” he said, as long as it was in the prison. And so it was that their loving commitment was recognized by the State of North Carolina, and that those in attendance included several trustees, who were the model prisoners who mopped floors, painted walls, and otherwise helped out. At the end of the short ceremony, the two friends from Florida who traveled with them, the Magistrate, and several trustees who stood quietly by all joined in the applause.
There is some speculation that the premise used to take away a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy in the U.S. will also be used by the conservative Republican Supreme Court Justices to take away the constitutional right of gay people to marry. The same highly partisan court may even rule that we gay people have no guaranteed right to engage in homosexual sexual behavior in privacy. The U.S. then would more closely resemble in its laws the Taliban than it would any other Western democracy. Simultaneously, at the state level, Republican governors and legislatures are seeking to eliminate mention of homosexuality and transgender people in classrooms and textbooks.
Some Fundamentalist Christians, Orthodox Jews, and far-right Muslims might think that they soon will be able to dance on our graves, that we will be defeated, and will all go back into the closet never to be heard from again. Speaking for myself, and for many gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer people in my Baby Boomer generation, that is not going to happen.
We didn’t leave the closet because the door was open. We broke the door down. We know what it was like before gay liberation, we know how to fight and survive, we know how to live happy, fulfilled lives without the support of the Church or State, and we will be emboldened by the legal setbacks, as will our many allies in the straight and cis-gender community.
Behind the scene today, there are several, well-established and well-financed LGBT legal and political organizations planning on how to challenge in the courts any attempt to take away our rights and status as equal citizens of the United States. It gives me comfort to know that our hard work and vision have enabled the creation of GLAD (Gay and a lesbian Advocates and Defenders) in Boston, and Lambda Legal, in New York, in addition to state Equality organizations, the Human Rights Campaign, and the National LGBTQ Task Force, among others. However, even if they didn’t exist, which none but one did when I came out in the early 1970s, I’d live in defiance of the laws of the land, as I did then.
Sometimes, I think we forget how strong and powerful we are. Few people have had to summon the courage and fortitude that we did in coming out into a world of fire and brimstone condemnations of our very being. We forget that we were willing to be disowned by our families, condemned by our churches, ostracized by our neighbors, fired from our jobs, and bullied in public in order to breathe and behave like normal human beings who were naturally attracted to people of our own sex, as has been true since the beginning of time.
I hope that we’re able to avoid this meltdown of civil rights at the hands of the five ultra-conservative Republican Supreme Court Justices, and Trump cult members in state office, but, if not, I’m not afraid for myself, and I will do what I can to help younger lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people endure the nightmare with self-assurance and pride in themselves.
If we can freely walk into prisons to get married, risking the jeering of inmates, we can certainly survive the backlash to our great progress and stare down those who seek to make our lives miserable.
Brian McNaught has been a leading educator on LGBTQ issues globally since 1974. He has made his many books and DVDs available for free at Brian-McNaught.com. The New York Times named him “The Godfather of gay diversity training.” Brian has a weekly YouTube/FaceBook podcast called, “Are You Happy Without the Movie?” and McNaught's latest book, “On Being Gay and Gray: Our Stories, Gifts, and the Meaning of Our Lives” is available now on Amazon for $14.99.