This morning President Obama signed the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." A few pictures from the event speak volumes about what it means to be told "you belong" after years of exclusion.
It reminds me of another moment two years ago when that same message reached a different group of people.
This issue of belonging runs deep. And sometimes we become so accustomed to the feeling of not belonging that when we are finally welcomed in, the depth of that silent longing surprises us. I remember having that experience when Mondale chose Ferraro as his running mate. In the lead-up to the announcement my reaction was, "meh, not a big deal." But when I watched it actually happen on TV, I wept.
I'm seeing that same reaction from many of my gay/lesbian brothers and sisters today. The very same feelings folks had in that room the day DADT was repealed. And the night African Americans celebrated almost 4 years ago. E.J. Graff captured it beautifully.
Well, I guess I'm cynical. I had a list of reasons as long as my arm for President Obama NOT to state that he favors equal marriage. My heart is turning such cartwheels that I am not sure I can write anything cogent...
...apparently not everything in the world is politics, is it? Sometimes—just for a minute—politics is very, very personal.
In 2004, I sat in a Unitarian pew while my friends Hillary and Julie Goodridge said their vows. I was absolutely fine with all the lead-up—they'd been together as long as I had been with my beloved partner, and I'd known them before that. Then came the phrase "By the power vested in me by the commonwealth of Massachusetts"—and I was sobbing harder than I knew was possible. So were the hardbitten LGBT activists around me, even those who weren't especially happy about the pursuit of marriage. As we all managed to sit up and dry our eyes, a little embarrassed at how raw the emotion was, one of the latter said, "I guess being ready for something intellectually isn't the same as being ready emotionally."
There's something very deep about having your government declare you a stranger to its laws, defining your love as outside all respectable recognition. For my president to stand up and say that I should belong fully to my nation, that my wife and I should be considered as fully married as my brother and his wife—well, it reopens and washes out some very deeply incised sense of exclusion, a scar inflicted when, at age 15, I first panicked at the realization that I might be queer.
But not so queer, really, if even my president believes that my marriage is the equal of his. Politics tomorrow. Today is a good day.