Almost 32 years ago, in San Francisco’s City Hall, having just defeated anti-gay proposition 6, Supervisor Harvey Milk stood in his office debating what the next step in the gay and lesbian movement should be. Per usual, he found himself in a heated debate with the other “gay leadership” who insisted he was moving too fast. He insisted it was time to march on Washington D.C., to follow in the footsteps of every successful civil rights struggle in this great Nation’s history and garner federal attention.
Not 24 hours later, Harvey Milk was tragically taken from us, and with him vanished the indomitable spirit, strength, and unwillingness to back down necessary to make this a federal fight.
Finally, 32 years later, in the city he loved, we are fulfilling Harvey’s dream.
Over the past months I have had the pleasure and privilege of meeting the plaintiffs in Perry vs. Schwarzenegger. Their love is true, their families are strong, and to hear their stories is to know they deserve full recognition of their love, both for themselves and for their families. The time has come for the world to meet Kris Perry and Sandra Stier, Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo. Their stories are our stories, ones of finding love with another person, of overcoming adversity, and of the strength and importance of family.
But now their stories must take a place in history, next to Brown vs. Board of Education and Loving vs. Virginia, in order to confirm what our great Constitution already tells us is true: that separate isnot equal, and that all men and women, regardless of skin color or sexual orientation, deserve equality.
To those who have said, “Wait,” I say, Gay and Lesbian people should not be forced to wait years to be treated equally under the law. By straining to avoid our federal Constitutional arguments, we only reinforce the false notion that our arguments lack merit. We reinforce the lies and myths and stereotypes that have been forced upon us for generations. We send a signal that we must not truly believe we are equal. The truth is, we are equal, and our love deserves equal recognition and protection under the law. Truth is on our side, and justice, but time is not.
We cannot wait.
We cannot wait for more children to be born into this country hearing that they are “less than,” that this country considers them inferior or second class, that their love is not worth honoring. If we do, how can we ever expect them to contribute, to thrive, or even just to survive?
We cannot wait for one more young person to hear this terrible news and take his or her own life, or have it brutally taken from them.
Now is the time for this federal challenge.
I’ve said this so many times before, but never has it seemed more appropriate than it does today. To many of us, this challenge sounds like debate and politics, tedium and hard work, but to the young people out there who are afraid, who tune in and hear that we have taken this bold new step, it will sound more like: “You are not less than. You have brothers and sisters, gay and straight, black and brown and white, thousands of us. And your struggle is our struggle, and your fight is our fight, and very soon, we promise you, you will be equal citizens, and you will be free.”