As of today, thanks to the United States Supreme Court, gay Americans are fully equal citizens, nationwide.
In his 1995 book Virtually Normal, Andrew Sullivan called for an end to all public – that is, government-directed – discrimination against gays and lesbians:
What would it mean in practice? Quite simply, an end to all proactive discrimination by the state against homosexuals. That means an end to sodomy laws that apply only to homosexuals; a recourse to the courts if there is not equal protection of heterosexuals and homosexuals in law enforcement; an equal legal age of consent to sexual activity for heterosexuals and homosexuals, where such regulations apply; inclusion of the facts about homosexuality in the curriculum of every government-funded school, in terms no more and no less clear than those applied to heterosexuality…; recourse to the courts if any government body or agency can be proven to be engaged in discrimination against homosexual employees; equal opportunity and inclusion in the military; and legal homosexual marriage and divorce.
In 2003, gay sex was decriminalized across the country. In 2010, we were permitted to serve openly in the military. In 2013, the federal government recognized our marriages. And as of today, we can get married and stay married all over the nation. Legal gay sex, legal military service, and legal marriage; we’ve won.
Private discrimination still exists in housing and employment, and we’ll see what happens with private parties who provide wedding services. But when it comes to how our governments directly treat us, the governments we fund with our taxes and support with our allegiance, we are equal.
I’m a married gay man, and now Matt and I are married all over the country, even when we visit Matt’s family in Tennessee. When I was young and alone, and scared of these strange feelings about other boys that wouldn’t go away no matter how hard I tried, worried that my parents would disown me if they ever knew, I never could have imagined that I’d live in a world like this – a world where a majority of the Supreme Court supports my equality and the president of the United States (a black man, at that) praises that decision.
I wish I were 20 years younger. Maybe 30 years younger. I wish I’d grown up knowing that I could marry a man as an adult, that I’d live in a country where our public institutions and the head of our government supported my equality. I wonder if my parents would have been more accepting more quickly. I wonder if I wouldn’t have had to come out to them at 19 only to go back into the closet for another five years because they couldn’t accept it for so long. I wonder if I would have started dating earlier than age 24, gotten more relationship experience under my belt, been able to live it up in my college years, enjoyed more of my youth. Maybe I would have even gotten into more than one college if I’d been openly gay; maybe I’d have gone to a school more accepting of gay people than the University of Virginia in the early 1990s. Maybe I wouldn’t have put so much of my life on hold for so long.
But you can’t choose when you are born. You can only choose what to do with your life today, now. There are people older than me who didn’t live to see this day, people who never even found someone to marry. I’m glad I’ve got a long life ahead of me, knock wood.
I’m glad I’m young enough to live in this world and appreciate the rights I have – today.