www.ambiente.us  JUNE | JUNIO 2009

By Stephen Gaskill

By now, almost every gay man or lesbian has to know this is the 40th anniversary of the
Stonewall riots, which are widely seen as sparking the modern GLBT rights
movement.  I doubt anyone back then would think that in only a few short decades
same-sex marriage would be legal in several states, with momentum on our side.  
(“Yeah, right,” they would have said.  “Two men can marry each other right after we elect
a black man President of the United States!”)

Even here in Purple State Florida (transitioning from Red to Blue) we’re having
successes.  While our state legislators in Tallahassee are living in the 1950s, the rest
of the state is moving forward and seeing that granting civil rights to all Floridians –
even if we haven’t gotten all that we want – won’t cause the next hurricane in a fit of
heavenly rage.  

As I write this the Miami City Commission has granted domestic partnership rights to
city employees, meaning both same-sex and opposite-sex couples have the same
rights and benefits as married couples.  With a unanimous vote by the Commission,
the City of Miami joins Miami-Dade County, North Miami and

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Miami Beach in granting these rights in the state’s
largest County.  SAVE Dade, the County’s largest
GLBT rights group, led the charge, with Equality
Florida, OUT, the Florida GLBT Democratic Caucus,
and other groups weighing in.

It’s not marriage, but it’s the closest thing GLBT
Floridians can achieve right now, especially on the
heels of last year’s Amendment 2, which could,
conceivably, eliminate these benefits if a court
challenge emerges.  Amendment 2 was a vaguely-
worded initiative that purported to promote only
“one man, one woman” marriage, but also outlawed
the “substantial equivalent” of marriage.  No one has
ever been able to define that last phrase.

A number of jurisdictions around Florida also allow benefits for unmarried couples of
same or opposite genders, but those municipalities are the usual suspects.  Miami’s
GLBT community was rightfully ecstatic over the latest development, since it’s the “one
step at a time” approach that is needed with many lawmakers – and many of our

The fact that Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Iowa – and
California – haven’t fallen into the sea by allowing marriage equality may be
responsible for the growing numbers of Americans supporting the nuptials.  It’s also
the impatience of younger gays and lesbians, and their friends and family, who don’t
see what the problem is and want a change now.  
Polling shows that support for marriage equality is growing, and a majority of
Americans back some kind of legal recognition for our relationships, whether called
civil unions or another name.  Well, as long as that name isn’t “marriage.”

Marriage equality will be a major topic of the next GLBT march on Washington, which
seems to be scheduled for Sunday, October 11.  (There’s some confusion regarding
the availability of the National Mall that day, but organizers are confident that’s the day.)

“The election of (Barack) Obama showed us change is possible,” march organizer
Cleve Jones, who worked with the legendary Harvey Milk, told the Associated Press.  
“The film ‘Milk’ reminded us of our history and of what we can accomplish.  Proposition
8 shows us that everything that we have can be taken away in a blink of an eye.  All of
this working together has opened a new chapter.”

But not all activists are on board with the idea that a march will work.  Influential
bloggers like Bil Browning, Pam Spaulding, and Karen Ocamb think the DC march in
October is ill-timed and too focused on California.  Maine will likely vote in November on
a referendum on keeping that state’s gay marriage law, and some activists want that to
be the focus in the fall – not California.  Even Equality California’s executive director,
Geoff Kors, agrees.  He told the Huffington Post:
“EQCA will also support our brothers and sisters in Maine and will encourage our
volunteers to go to Maine in October to help them defeat their anti-marriage initiative in
November 2009.”
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force also seems noncommittal on a Washington
march in October, issuing a statement focused on their Equality Begins at Home
campaign when asked about it.  HRC’s leader Joe Solmonese equivocated but seems
uninterested in getting involved in a march.

Marches have propelled other civil rights movements forward – including our own – but
this one seems to be lacking a united front among the numerous voices in our
community.  While many activists claim the mantle of Harvey Milk,
or long to participate in an historic event like the one at Stonewall Bar, it’s really
the everyday actions in our own backyards – like what happened in Miami in June
2009 -- that will change public opinion and fulfill the dream of those unexpected
civil rights leaders in New York City 40 years ago.

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