It’s in my nature to urge caution when it comes to celebrating our political successes. Long experience has taught us that defeat is sometimes snatched from the jaws of victory. It’s often better, I think, to take a more measured approach that moderates joy to protect against the possibility of later disappointment.
Not this time.
This time, I’m as joyous as the gay and lesbian couples who, as I write this, are lined up outside a courthouse on a cold and rainy day for the long-awaited opportunity to have their relationships recognized as valid marriages under D.C. law.
Sometimes you simply have to celebrate.
It doesn’t hurt that over the past few days the increasingly desperate attempts by anti-equality activists, led by Maryland’s Bishop Harry Jackson, have been turned back repeatedly. Late Tuesday, Chief Justice John Roberts rejected Jackson’s emergency request that the Supreme Court issue a stay to block the March 3 implementation of the law.
Obviously, that can’t be taken as any sort of ruling on marriage equality itself, but it is heartening to see the highest court decline to intervene because the matter at hand is in the domain of the District and Congress. Just as heartening has been the lack of traction marriage-equality opponents have gained in their federal legislative efforts to block implementation.
As they say, there are times when a do-nothing Congress plays in your favor.
While Washington may only be the sixth jurisdiction in the United States to offer same-sex couples the same legal rights and responsibilities as opposite-sex couples, it’s fair to say that the implications of equality are top tier. Being in the nation’s capital puts a special and intense light on us all. As we continue to show the world that our relationships are simply a part of the social fabric — no better and no worse than the straight marriages of our own friends and families — then we continue to make equality a value that includes us all.
Not just here, not just on the coasts, but in all America.
Of course, that’s a goal, not an achievement — yet. We have a long way to go before we can consider the battle won. And while we may be rightly celebrating the victory achieved by the hard work and dedication of a cadre of activists and elected officials, there will still be work to be done protecting our hard-fought gains. The enemies of equality won’t simply pack their bags and cede the field — there will be lawsuits and anger and agitation, all aimed at undermining our community. The decision by Catholic Charities to suspend all spousal benefits for its employees in order to avoid providing benefits to even one same-sex spouse is the equivalent of killing flies with a sledgehammer, but indicative of just how far homophobia will drive some people.
The fight for equality never really ends — at least, one suspects, in our lifetimes. There are many things yet to be achieved — employment protection, military service, an end to the DOMA policy that undercuts our legal marriages — and every achievement must be defended.
As they did in California and as they’ve done elsewhere, anti-gay forces will seek to attack and diminish us, to rile voters with fear-mongering lies. They believe their efforts will roll back the achievements we’ve made in being treated equally in society and under the law.
Not this time.