Across the Threshold

The legal victory for D.C. marriage equality is a time to celebrate, and look forward to other challenges

It can sometimes feel a little awkward to celebrate a victory achieved by something not happening. But even though the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear a challenge to D.C.’s marriage-equality law was a legal matter delivered with no fanfare or comment, it deserves a full celebration by everyone in the city, regardless of their orientation.

Well, perhaps Rev. Harry Jackson — the man who relentlessly pursued his crusade against equality until running up against the Supreme Court — won’t be celebrating. And the masterminds behind the National Organization for Marriage, Maggie Gallagher and Brian Brown, won’t be breaking out the bubbly either.

For the rest of us, though, particularly the activists and couples who pursued this for years and made it reality, it’s pretty sweet.

To me, the sweetest part — aside from the actual equality — is the defeat of the idea that ”voting rights” means everyone should get to vote on every aspect of their fellow citizens’ lives. This was always a ludicrous position, especially given the fact that the anti-gay forces of Jackson and NOM were unable to defeat in the last election any of the City Council members who voted for the marriage-equality legislation.

That’s the way things work in a representative democracy, even one such as D.C.’s that’s forced to function under the ever-threatening gaze of Capitol Hill. In NOM’s world, democracy is the equivalent of an online poll — you just keep pushing buttons until you get the results you want.

In the real world, things work differently.

Of course, as much as we might celebrate the end of the legal challenges to equality in D.C., that gaze from Capitol Hill could become even more unwelcome. NOM will certainly be pushing some members of the new House Republican majority to undo the D.C. law through legislative trickery or fiat. Because nothing supports NOM’s cherished ”voting rights” like going to Capitol Hill to overturn the will of a city that actually has no representation in Congress. Then again, irony isn’t a strong suit for Gallagher and Brown.

So there’s still work to be done to protect what’s been achieved. And there’s work to be done to finally bring an end to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), whether through the courts or the Congress. There’s also a great deal of work to be done to make sure we don’t leave others behind. There has been growing concern among many in the LGBT community — as expressed in these pages last week by Dana Beyer — that transgender and gender-expression issues, part of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA), are being left behind in the rush toward marriage.

I know from personal experience that finding room for the ”T” in LGBT can be a challenge, and there is much discussion that needs to be had in the entire community about what, exactly, the acronym represents. I’ve also found that many, many people in the gay and lesbian community need as much education about transgender lives as anyone in the straight community. Unfortunately, being gay or lesbian doesn’t instantly gift us with enlightenment. We should all simply stop for a moment and listen — the stories of transgender lives are worth hearing and understanding.

Despite what work may remain, celebrations should be welcomed when victories are achieved. So, this weekend raise a toast to equality in our nation’s capital. Then, next week get busy making sure it’s a victory we can share.

Sean Bugg is Editor Emeritus for Metro Weekly.

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