Sunday, June 26, 2011

To Know Us Is to Let Us Love

by Frank Bruni

New York Times

June 25, 2011

In the mid-1980s, when I was in college, what concerned and frustrated my peers and me was how few states had basic statutes forbidding discrimination against gay men and lesbians: laws that merely prevented someone from being denied a job or apartment on the basis of whom he or she loved. At that point only Wisconsin and the District of Columbia provided such protection. The decade would end with just one addition, Massachusetts, to that meager list.

Same-sex marriage? I don’t recall our talking — or dreaming — much about that. We considered ourselves realists. Sometimes idealists. But never fantasists.

As it happens, we were pessimists, and underestimated our country’s capacity for change. That was my thought all week, even as it remained unclear what the endlessly dithering New York State Legislature would decide and even as President Obama, speaking at a gay gala in Manhattan, stayed the closeted pro-gay course, giving coy signals of solidarity without tying the knot. The fact that same-sex marriage was drawing such serious attention at such high levels was public proof of what I could see in my private life — in my own family. Where we are is a long way from where we were.

Outside New York, five states, along with Washington, D.C., already permit same-sex marriages. Twenty-one states, along with D.C., outlaw anti-gay discrimination. And both numbers will grow. That’s what recent polls telegraph, and that’s what the shape and flavor of the campaign for same-sex marriage in New York irrevocably demonstrated. This issue will increasingly transcend partisan politics and hinge less on party affiliation or archaic religious doctrine than on the intimate, everyday dynamics of family and friendship.