DOMA ‘n Shit

Edie Windsor: Making Strides. Photo by Julia Noël Goldman.
Edie Windsor: Making Strides. Photo by Julia Noël Goldman.

I have worked in the LGBT movement for twenty-five years, and been lucky enough to get paid for much of it. When I started, back in 1988, the New York Times still used the word “homosexual” and there were no gay sections in bookstores. So the recent news about DOMA is a big deal, and something I’ve realized I’ve had a part in. That all my work, from selling books at Oscar Wilde, to helping run the LGBT Center, to going on all those marches, has had a real effect on the world. Many of us can say this, and we should all take a moment now to be proud of ourselves—it’s the right weekend for it, after all… Ah, that was nice. Now back to work!

For over two weeks, my coworkers set up for the Edie Windsor press conference day after day, waiting for the announcement. And finally it came. I was there on the sidewalk to take photos of Edie as she stepped out of the car. I was there with the crowd on the third floor watching the press conference on NY1 as it happened in real time on the first floor. It was one of my favorite-ever days at the Center.

DOMA was dead, said everyone on Facebook. But it was just section 3, so in fact DOMA was only maimed. Sure, it’s wonderful that we’ve gone back to where we were seventeen years ago when marriage wasn’t defined as a union between a man and a woman. Some gay people have more civil rights now. It’s cool, don’t get me wrong. However I do have some comments.

In achieving the right to share our money with our lovers before and after death, we have bought into a system that is permanently flawed. We all know marriage is a financial deal, that it comes from centuries of trading women and “other goods” to cement alliances. It’s a civil right now and we have it and that’s good, but it’s a right that requires you have a lover to enjoy, and lovers can be very hard to come by. I believe that everyone should have the right to share their wealth with the person(s) of their choice, whether they’re in love with them or not. Marriage is about money, not romantic love. It is about rewarding people for buying into the tragically broken American Dream, a dream we have woken up from and need to re-imagine.

I find it ridiculous that some people think the fight is over for the LGBT community—taking down DOMA is just not the most important goal of this movement. Marriage is great but it doesn’t stop someone from beating you up because you held your lover’s hand on the street. Marriage is great but most parents still feel they’ve failed if they have a gay kid. Laws are great but they result in backlash. Anti-gay hate crimes are up again in NYC—a young gay man named Mark Carson was recently shot to death a block away from Christopher Street. African Americans are still caught in a cycle of institutionalized backlash—the day before the DOMA decision a key aspect of the Voting Rights Act was struck down by the same Supreme Court. And women still don’t make as much money as men do for the same job—we’ve been making 77% of what men make, and that’s just since 2005.

So yes, gay people lucky enough to have money and love can keep them now, have them more officially.  And if that’s all you care about, that’s your choice. But there is so much more injustice left to fight against, so much more work to do. The struggle is far from over. It will not be over until every single person in this world can walk through their town and feel safe—whether it’s about the color of their skin or their gender presentation, their religious accoutrements, or their financial situation. Oh, I know there will always be psychotic killers out there, but what I want is a world where no one sanctions violence against people for being who they are.

Our Army of Lovers cannot fail because we contain everyone—we are born everywhere, we are every possible kind of person in every possible situation on this planet, so every fight is our fight. Every single fight. No one is free until we are all free and that’s just a fact. Jack.