A New York Moment Goes Down in History
When New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed his name to the Marriage Equality Act just before midnight on June 24, 2011, he brought years of struggle by the state's civil rights advocacy groups to fruition.
He gave same-sex couples in the Empire State the blessing to recognize and honor their love and commitment.
And he put New York indelibly on the map as a leader in the right direction, having now become the sixth state in the Union to legalize gay marriage.
Serendipitously, the bill passed during Gay Pride Week and a few days short of the 42nd anniversary of the Stonewall Inn riots in Greenwich Village, the spark that ignited the Gay Rights Movement in 1969. It's been a long forty-two years, but victory has come full circle to the Big Apple.
Triumph for Community: Equal Marriage Benefits Everyone
With each stride forward, for every state that stands up, we make the world a safer place for gay children and teens to grow up free of stigmatism and violence.
We shape a better world for all children when we live in a society that embraces diversity, community, and family. We teach our kids that what it means to be human -- what connects us to our humanity, to the very best in ourselves, and to each other -- is our inborn ability to love.
It's a natural right, a civil right, and a human right.
More Work Ahead
While jubilant New York couples are busy planning mid-summer weddings, time will tell if a national "ripple effect" is already underway. As of 2011, same-sex couples cannot wed in 44 states, 30 of which have passed constitutional amendments banning gay marriage.
Moreover, under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the 1996 law which prohibits the federal government from recognizing gay marriages, tens of thousands of legally wed LGBT men and women are denied over 1,000 federal protections afforded straight married couples.
As a result, LGBT men, women, and families -- American citizens who work, raise families, and pay their taxes -- are profoundly impacted. Same-sex couples cannot, for example, claim survivors' rights to Social Security benefits, take leave from work to care for a sick spouse, or benefit from equal protection under U.S. immigration laws. In response, the Human Rights campaign has crafted a Repeal Doma petition we can sign to help eliminate this law.
Sites for GLBT Support
Gay or straight, you can connect with outreach programs, activism, and a community of friends through the following web sites. Read the stories of GBLT men and women, stand up for human rights, make a donation, or lend a hand to help keep these programs helping others:
Freedom to Marry - Created in 2003, the Freedom to Marry campaign is on the road to achieve equal marriage in all states. Visitors can sign the "Say I Do" Appeal to President Obama on the site's home page.
SAGE - The country's oldest and largest organization providing services and programs to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults and elders.
Family Equality Council - Through their core values "love, justice, family, equality," the FEC works to engender nationwide support of family diversity and ensure social justice for all LGBT families.
Give A Damn Campaign - Launched by longtime LGBT advocate and singer/songwriter Cyndi Lauper, the Give A Damn Campaign is for "everyone, especially straight people," who care about GLBT equality and want to learn more.
Human Rights Campaign - With over one million members and supporters nationwide, the HRC is the largest national civil rights organization committed to achieving equality for the LGBT community.
ItGetsBetter.org and the Trevor Project - Worldwide, over 22,000 personal videos have already been submitted to the 'It Gets Better' campaign by GLBT and straight adults -- including celebrities and sports teams -- who share their stories with isolated GLBT youth, offer the wisdom of their years, and give life-affirming inspiration and support.
IGLHRC - Since 1990, the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission has worked on behalf of people who are discriminated against or abused because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
Empire State Pride Agenda - New York's statewide LGBT civil rights and advocacy organization.