It doesn’t matter who you are or what your politics are. There are a lot of angry and frustrated people all across the country and I admit that I am one of them.
Instead of being able to get married in New York where I live, my husband and I had to go to Massachusetts in an effort to get the legal protections we need for our daily lives as a family. So I am fighting hard to legalize marriage for LGBT families in New York. Like a lot of other people I know, I want my equality now. I am fed up with the slow pace of change and impatient with a political process that seems to be full of delays and unexpected traps.
Sometimes I feel as though our community is living in that board game called “Chutes and Ladders.” Things go our way for a while—we climb ladders, we can see the finish line, and then the unexpected happens and we drop down a chute—and we’re back to a place I thought we’d left a long time ago.
This is exactly what happened here earlier this year in New York. Momentum was building to make marriage legal. Legislatures in the Northeast were passing marriage bills and governors were signing them. A record number of New Yorkers went to Albany in April to urge their State senators to do the same here. Tens of thousands called their senators in May to let them know that marriage equality is important and it’s got to be addressed. It looked like the Senate was getting close to making a decision to take the vote, and if it had, I think we would have won. But then, inexplicably, the Senate blew itself up on June 8 over its leadership and everything stopped.
Now the Majority has put itself back together and the Senate is going into special session every few weeks to take up unfinished business from earlier in the year. Talk about the prospect of passing the marriage bill is back in the news.
I know the support that was there in June from all types of New Yorkers is still there now to get this job done. The Pride Agenda’s hardworking community organizers have been all over the state in the past few weeks at labor marches, gay expos, art festivals, train stops, polling sites and even the state fair. Thousands have been signing up to get involved. Many are straight and they keep saying over and over again, “What’s the big deal? Of course you should be able to get married. I’m with you!”
So, yes, I’m frustrated that we’re still fighting this fight. But when I hear how much enthusiasm and determination there is from New Yorkers all across the state to keep working, I’m able to take a deep breath and then march on.
I realize it’s not enough, nor is it acceptable, to just be frustrated and to vent that frustration without doing something constructive about it. LGBT New Yorkers will not be deterred by things out of their control in the State Senate. We will keep fighting until we win.
Proposition 8 showed all of us that we can never sit back and expect others to do the work for us. We have to get involved directly and personally, with our time and, if we’re able, with our money, even if victory takes longer than we would have hoped for or ever imagined.
Frank Selvaggi is Co-Chair of the Board of Directors of the Empire State Pride Agenda