by Tommi Avicolli Mecca
It’s official. A majority of the Supremes proclaimed that the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to same-sex marriage in all states. It is indeed an historic occasion. The love that dare not speak its name is proving these days that it will never be silent again.
This is not something I could've foreseen. When I came out, gay sex was illegal and gay men were routinely subjected to electro shock therapy to try and make them straight. Gay bars were raided if their owners failed to pay off the cops and a drag queen could be arrested for “female impersonation” if she didn’t wear two pieces of male clothing.
While marriage has never been on the top of my agenda, either personally or politically, I recognize that for some folks, it’s an important right since couples receive many benefits and economic advantages. Let’s face it, to be uncoupled is to be a failure in the eyes of a society obsessed with that Hallmark moment. As far as I’m concerned, the state shouldn’t be in the business of legitimatizing anyone’s relationship, straight or queer. But it is and as long as it is, it should provide those benefits to all couples.
The question now is: what’s next? What will be the burning issue of the mainstream LGBT movement? I hope it’s economic justice for all. I doubt that it will be.
The rate of poverty and homelessness in our community has been skyrocketing. Two Williams Institute studies demonstrate that as a community we have as much poverty as every other community (so much for the myth of all that disposable income). The rate of homelessness among queer youth nationally, according to a study by the National Lesbian and Gay Task Force and the National Coalition on Homelessness, is from 20-40%.
If anyone needs to gain equality, it’s the invisible poor in our community: the homeless on the streets that people step over and who sometimes die on those same streets and no one notices (even here in the Castro); the youth who flee here from every corner of the world only to find that they cannot afford the outrageous rents, even with jobs; the seniors who live in mortal fear that their buildings will be sold and they will be tossed out; the people with AIDS who realize that the city that cared in the 80s is now the city that fines you for sleeping on the sidewalk or in the parks when you have nowhere else to rest your head.
Marriage proponents have for years been stressing that their efforts were about family. It’s time for the LGBT movement to prove that.
Not family as in Ozzie and Harriet, but as in “we are family,” meaning all of us together, all of us who identify as LGBTQI. All of us who walk under the banner of the rainbow flag.
It’s time for the movement to put its time and resources into housing the poor and the homeless in our community; ensuring that everyone has living wage jobs and that we’re protected against discrimination in employment and housing; safeguarding immigrants, especially those who are undocumented; stopping evictions and foreclosures from stealing our homes; opposing racism, sexism, ageism and all those things that separate us from each other; ending anti-queer and anti-transgender violence; addressing income disparity that leaves so many out in the cold; and fighting police abuse and violence.
The struggle is not over. It’s just beginning.