Richard Socarides is the president ofEquality Matters, a new media and communications initiative in support of gay equality.
It was just a month ago that Congress approved and the president signed into law a bill repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell.” This highly significant victory is an important milestone in our effort to secure full equality.
It not only means that gays and lesbians will be allowed to serve with the dignity they deserve, but that America is beginning to recognize that our struggle is for civil rights. America is beginning to understand that gay rights are human rights.
In order to win the “don’t ask” effort, we needed not only to convince our friends that now was the time to act, but we also had overcome the homophobia of the obstructionist Republican apparatus and conservative movement. Although eight Republicans joined the Senate vote to finally right this injustice, within an hour of the vote, Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association said, “we are now stuck with sexual deviants serving openly in the U.S. military…”
“It’s a tragic day for America,” added Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council. “But I don’t think this will really affect the marriage issue very much. It’s been rejected by voters in 31 states.”
That’s exactly where Mr. Sprigg is wrong.
Our culture is changing rapidly. Most Americans believe that gays and lesbians are entitled to the same rights and responsibilities as their fellow citizens, including now over 50 percent who believe in marriage equality.
We see other signs of progress too.For example, Ricky Martin, one of the biggest pop music stars of all time and Ken Mehlman, aformer RepublicanParty chair turned Wall Street banker, felt comfortable enough to publicly proclaim their sexuality. A New Jerseyteenager’ssuicide gave new poignancy to a PSA campaign in which Americans from all walks of life, famous and not, spoke openly and candidly in record numbers about what it means to be gay and how “it gets better” – thanks to activist and writer Dan Savage.
We believe that the moment for decisive action for full gay equality is here — this moment is a historic imperative. The goal of Equality Matters is to leverage our expertise in media and communications, and politics and policy, to support those who share that belief and help create an environment where policymakers, the courts, the media and the public at large understand that gay rights are human rights.
Despite the important victory we have just witnessed, make no mistake about it: We are still the only class of Americans for whom discrimination is codified into state and federal law. We have a lot of work to do.
This essay is adapted from a longer version.
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