As married New Yorkers, we could not be more proud that marriage equality has become a reality in New York. For the state that launched national movements at Seneca Falls and Stonewall, this is another great moment in our history—and one that promises to reverberate across the country. We are full of thanks and praise for the work of our governor, and the seven state Senators who found it within themselves and in the voices of their constituents to vote ‘yes’ for the first time.
We both believe passionately in the rights of our gay and lesbian friends and family members. But on a more personal level, we are deeply conscious that there was a time not long ago when our own marriage would have been impossible in much of the country. It was 44 years ago this month that the Supreme Court ruled in Loving vs. Virginia, and struck down laws barring interracial marriage across the south. As we celebrate this next great victory in the fight for marriage equality, we are also reflecting on what it will mean for our own children to grow up at a time when barriers to marriage are finally being relegated to the past.
The run up to last Friday’s state Senate vote was marked by acts of profound political courage on both sides of the aisle. But the last few weeks were also been marred by fear-mongering from opponents of same-sex marriage who did their best to hold back the tide of change. The National Organization for Marriage, which has since pledged $2 million to strip LGBT New Yorkers of their newly-won right to marry, blared out TV ads last month, warning, “The rights of people who believe that marriage means a man and a woman will no longer matter.”
These attacks echo tactics familiar to anyone who lived in America before Loving vs. Virginia. Even in 1967—three years after the Civil Rights Act had passed—there was still staunch opposition in much of the country to interracial marriage. But those prejudices could not survive in a world where people lived alongside interracial families. If there is a lesson for today in the history since Loving vs. Virginia, it’s that the fear spewed by groups like the National Organization for Marriage will fall by the wayside as New Yorkers find themselves living alongside loving, same-sex spouses. The ground is already shifting across the country, with 53% of Americans supporting same-sex marriage in a poll released last week. Reality has a way of negating prejudice.
That the two of us would have been prevented from marrying each other because of race is unimaginable today. Thanks to what just happened in New York State, our children will look back on laws denying marriage to same-sex couples in the same way that we look back on the laws that would’ve prevented us from marrying—obsolete, discriminatory, and gone.
NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray, live in Park Slope with their two children, Dante and Chiara. They have been married for 17 years.
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