FIRST PERSON | On Sunday, the Marriage Equality Act will take effect in New York, thus far the largest state in the country to expand marriage rights to its gay residents. That's the day when I will head down to the Manhattan City Clerk's office to pick up my marriage license with my fiancee, Katie Marks. We won't marry right away. Instead, we'll say our vows with 23 other couples at the Pop Up Chapel in Central Park on July 30.
To say that we are ecstatic would be an understatement of epic proportions. I will finally have the opportunity to marry my favorite person, my best friend. She is my perfect complement; she fills in my gaps. We've named our future children, and love our pets as if they were people.
For me, the ability to marry is about all of the obvious things: love, trust, and creating a new family. More than any of those things, it's an insurance policy, of sorts. It means that I'll get to put a long-held worry to rest.
I realized I was gay early, as a teenager. Around that time, I saw the 2000 film If These Walls Could Talk 2, which follows three lesbian stories taking place in three different time periods, all in the same house. In the first vignette, we meet an elderly lesbian couple, Abby and Edith, in the early 60s. Abby takes a nasty fall and dies in the hospital, where Edith worries in the waiting room all night. She is told the next morning that her partner has died. She is not allowed any more information, or even the ability to see Abby, because she isn't "family."
This has been one of my greatest fears for over a decade. The very basic right of having access to a loved one when disaster strikes is something I think many take for granted. It has been my main talking point on the subject of gay marriage for years. In many cases, I've found that, even if a person doesn't agree with my "lifestyle choices," they don't think anyone should be denied the ability to comfort a loved one in a time of dire need. They can't fathom the idea that these things can and do happen in this country.
Last April, President Barack Obama sent a memo to the Department of Health and Human Services, pointing out that the LGBTQ community is "uniquely affected" by visitation policies in hospitals, and asked that they put a stop to it. That was one step. On Sunday, I'll be able to say that the chances of us meeting the same fate as Edith and Abby will be reduced nearly to zero -- as long as we stay in New York and a handful of other states. It's another step, and a huge one at that.
I am overcome with happiness and gratitude. I am so grateful for Gov. Andrew Cuomo's efforts; for everyone who wrote a letter or made a call for rallying on our behalf; and especially for those who stood in the halls outside the senate chamber in Albany, fighting for our rights. I think we've gained a powerful momentum with the gay marriage victory here in New York, with the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and Obama's recent statement that he would work to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. From here on out, I think we will experience something akin to a domino effect. Of course, as with all civil rights movements, there will continue to be resistance, and we will continue to fight for our equality.
When I think about the amazing strides we've made, I remember that joy must be tempered. I think about the losses of Matthew Shepard, Tyler Clementi, and the countless others whose names we never heard who died because of who they loved, or even who they thought they could love. They lived in fear, never knowing the support to be gained by the It Gets Better Project or Live Through This. They never got a chance to grow, to succeed, to love and marry. This victory is for them, too. They were martyrs to a noble cause that's finally making huge strides. I wish they could be here to see it.