From the same-sex marriages in states like Utah and Alabama to the Supreme Court’s decision to consider marriage equality (not to mention the clerks in Colorado who took a stand by continuing to issue same-sex marriage licenses despite the state attorney general threatening to sue), this has been a year of tremendous progress.
There is reason to celebrate, and Marriage Equality USA (MEUSA) is doing just that. MEUSA is the oldest organization founded to work toward marriage equality in the country, and its LA Garden Party and Awards are taking place on Sunday, March 1st. Here, Brian Silva, the Executive Director of MEUSA, talks to dot429 about the people the organization is honoring, the work that’s still left for the movement, and what we can do to help.
dot429: Tell us a little about MEUSA’s LA Garden Party and Awards.
Brian Silva: We are really excited to be able to celebrate the accomplishments of folks in the LA area to help bring full marriage equality to our nation. It’s going to be a wonderful afternoon of cocktails and delicious food and entertainment, and we will be honoring some of our strongest local supporters, including Mayor Robert Garcia, RSVP Vacations, and Nicole Conn, Jen Foster, and Sue Melke of the SHE4ME project.
dot429: Sounds like fun! Can you tell me about what the honorees have done to move marriage equality forward?
BS: Mayor Robert Garcia is both the first latino mayor as well as the first openly LGBT mayor of Long Beach. He has a long record of supporting recognition for couples and has been a strong supporter of our inaugural awards reception last year in Los Angeles.
RSVP Vacations and Marriage Equality have had a long history of providing educational programming to the RSVP events, where their members can come and find out about the status of marriage equality, its history, and what they can do.
And the SHE4ME project was a music video project by the three women mentioned, who took the lead to do a video and a 30-second PSA supporting marriage equality. And that was viewed almost one million times online and was also distributed as a 30-second PSA on cable television, where millions of people were able to see the message—equal love and equal marriage rights for everyone.
dot429: And with the awards in the past, have you had any moments when you could see the impact of celebrating these leaders?
BS: Oh, absolutely. I remembered when we honored Edie Windsor before her case went to the Supreme Court. She’d been a longtime supporter of ours, and I think it was very humbling and an honor that our organization was one that helped get her involved in an activist role, which lead her with some of our amazing partners to take a lawsuit all the way to what has become a huge win for our entire community. That was a truly special night.
dot429: These awards are in California, where marriage equality has been achieved. How does the fight for marriage equality look differently for people living in states where same-sex marriage is legal?
BS: We know lots of people who didn’t live in California worked very hard to bring marriage to this state. It’s our duty to work just as hard to help those folks to achieve marriage in their states.
But in addition, we know that folks opposed to treating people fairly and equally are trying to undermine the success that we’ve had across the country. For example, in many states wih marriage equality, “license to discriminate” bills are being proposed. So our work is definitely not done for states that still need the basic equal marriage rights. But it’s also not done in states where we have equal marriage, where folks are trying to chip away at some really hard-won gains.
dot429: So if I wanted to get involved in affecting change, what could I do?
BS: Well, first of all, we would love to have you join us at the Los Angeles awards and support the organizations, meet some of the volunteers, board members, and honorees, and just have a wonderful afternoon with us. We’ll give you the resources you need to continue to the fight moving forward.
You can also go online and sign up to volunteer or to become a monthly sustaining donor, which lets us keep our efforts growing and growing, and our website is marriageequality.org.