I feel so lucky to have witnessed June 26, 2013. While there is still a lot of work to be done, history will remember that day as the moment when the LGBT community passed the tipping point towards equality. Many who have worked for marriage equality have always known we would get there, but probably never imagined that it would happen this soon. When Prop 8 passed nearly five years ago, overturning DOMA and having 13 marriage equality states seemed like a dream of the distant future. However, a dynamic and powerful coalition of LGBT activists organized and took decisive action to make the most significant social progress since the civil rights era of the 1960’s.
When I arrived back in NYC after volunteering for the Obama campaign in my hometown of Cleveland in 2008, the devastation of Prop 8’s passage had almost ruined my high from election night. Quickly though, my aggravation turned into activism as I saw many of my fellow theater friends protesting at the New York City Hall rally. Everywhere I turned I saw a members of the Broadway community. This inspired Jenny Kanelos, Gavin Creel and me to start www.broadwayimpact.com We saw the passion that the theater community had for this issue and our hope was to harness it. We were not alone. Prop 8 inspired countless organizations and calls to action. The effects of the victories that occurred in courtrooms, legislative houses, and voting booths from November 4, 2008 until June 26, 2013 will be felt for centuries.
While June 26th was a transformational day, it was not an overnight success. It was a culmination of community organizing over generations. As we celebrated at Stonewall that night, I was moved to see older men and women who had rioted for our right to be in that bar, who fought for our ability to hold hands in public, who protested for our survival of a plague. This moment would not have been possible if they hadn’t won their generations battles. Due to their courage, my generation will never know what it was like to feel the terror of the AIDS crisis before ACT UP, or the fear of gathering together before Stonewall. I hope they are proud of my generation and how we have handled our leg of the journey. It might have taken something as heinous as Prop 8 to wake us out of our apathy, but once it did we took our place in the community meeting that has been strategizing for the past forty-four years.
So now our community is arguably one of the most organized operations in politics. We still have far to go in LGBT issues especially when it comes to transgender rights, but I think the question now is… “How else can we make progress?” In the coming years as we see light at the end of the tunnel for our marriage rights battle, let’s not loose our organization and momentum. Let’s step on the gas. So many issues that are being fought today such as women’s rights, the environment, income inequality etc., are all vital to the LGBT community’s well being and they need our help. These movements are looking at the progress that we have made and hoping to take a page from our playbook. Let’s not just give them the book; let’s show up with the signs and bullhorns. Fighting for the equality for all Americans will only secure the foundation of our own.
Rory O'Malley was nominated for a Tony Award for his performance in 'Book of Mormon'. He is one of the founders of Broadway Impacts. Currently he is starring in "No Body Loves You' at the Second Stage Theater.