It wasn’t that long ago – 4 November 2008 – that the US had an election that galvanized a generation of activists to change policies in this country that would have enshrined into law the continued marginalization of a large group of people. I’m not talking about who was elected president, or which political party took the most seats in Congress: rather, a ballot initiative in the state of California, called Proposition 8, passed by a four-point margin that night and successfully amended the state’s constitution by adding language that defined marriage as being between “one man and one woman”.
Now, not fully eight years later, the US supreme court ruled in favor of full marriage equality across America. And while on that night back in 2008, as I considered the long term consequences of California’s newly enshrined discrimination against same-sex couples – including the possibility that the thousands of couples who married in the months prior might have effectively been “divorced” by a voting majority of their neighbors, coworkers and families – I felt faint and ran to the bathroom to throw up, today I am happy for that part of my LGBT community which has gained a well-deserved measure of equality.
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But I worry that, with full marriage equality, much of the queer community will be left wondering how else to engage with a society that still wants to define who we are – and who in our community will be left to push for full equality for all transgender and queer people, now that this one fight has been won. I fear that our precious movements for social justice and all the remarkable advancements we have made are now vulnerable to being taken over by monied people and institutions, and that those of us for whom same-sex marriage rights brings no equality will be slowly erased from our movement and our history.
The unexpected shock of a marriage equality loss in California in 2008 – a state that I, like many others, ignorantly deemed “too liberal” to actually pass such a measure – brought millions of people together to focus on marriage equality – crystallizing a previously fractured LGBT rights movement that had seemed to have lost its way politically. The purpose of the movement was to educate and promote the equality of all people.