Curtis Chin is a Motown-born, New York-bred, Los Angeles-based writer, producer and community activist. He’s proud to have co-founded the Asian American Writers Workshop and Asian Pacific Americans for Progress and for writing and producing the documentary looking back at the June 19, 1982 murder of Vincent Chin, Vincent Who? He’s less proud of having started the Young Republicans Club in high school. He’s currently working on a new website with a former ABC and HBO exec, widelantern.com, and developing a teen comedy with director Quentin Lee and producer Chris Lee. For the months of June and July, Vincent Who? will be available on-line for free by visiting the official website, Vincentwhomovie.com.
A million songs have been written about New York and its general awesomeness. Usually it’s just about the Big Apple, but in this case, that awesomeness applies to the whole damn state. On Friday, New York joined Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, Iowa and New Hampshire to become the sixth state to allow gay and lesbian couples to legally marry. With more than 18 million residents, the number of Americans living in marriage-equality jurisdictions instantly doubled. (Keep in mind, this equality only applies to state law. Every LGBT couple in the country, even in those states and DC which also allows LGBT couples to marry, are still discriminated against at the federal level due to the Defense of Marriage Act.)
Ever since New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced in the Spring that he would prioritize the passage of a marriage equality bill, I have been monitoring the news for any development. As the state legislative session was coming to a close this past week, my anticipation, excitement and fear picked up steam. Every morning, I would eagerly log on to see if my former home state would be sending me an overnight love letter. I was literally checking the LGBT news sites on an almost hourly basis, hoping for any updates. The bill needed 32 votes to pass the Republican-held Senate and only 29 Democrats had publicly committed. There were no guarantees that the bill would even come up for a vote.
Of course the self-anointed defenders of marriage came out with all their usual arguments about children being forced into homosexuality, people being able to marry their pet goat and the general end of Western Civilization and all that we hold dearly on Earth. Thankfully, the good guys had on their A-game this time. Hats off to Cuomo, as well New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, for playing a master game of politics. They managed to win over four Republicans and secure equality for the LGBT couples in their state.
As one of those last-minute converts, Republican State Senator Mark Grisanti said, just minutes before he revealed that he was switching his vote, while he was a committed Catholic, he could find no legal reason to deny the couples the 1,300 rights and privileges that he and his wife enjoy.
“In New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of, oh. / there’s nothing you can’t do.” – Alicia Keyes
I only lived in New York for about four years, but I will always consider myself a New Yorker. There was something about the energy of the city I loved and a lot of that had to do with its diversity. And this diversity was not just about race, but also class, occupation, education, everything. And all these different worlds seemed to mingle (or collide) here, maybe not on an intimate level, but at least on the subways and the public spaces of the city. Now everyone on the A train are a little more alike and a little more equal.
I also loved how New York is made of fighters. Most people I met there had a can-do spirit about themselves. It’s why people like me picked up and moved from places like Michigan, to discover ourselves and push ourselves to be the best we could be. That fighting spirit got them over this hurdle and sent a strong message about equality across the nation and the world.
This bold act now cements the Empire state’s reputation as the progressive leader in the country. As Cuomo pointed out, just before signing the bill, such progressive movements as women’s right and labor got their start here. Hell, even the Stonewall riots, the start of the LGBT movement in America, happened here, as well.
The question now is “what happens next?” New York is going to have marriage equality. There’s nothing the anti-equality forces can do to stop it. They can only wait for a new election and vote out the elected officials and that seems very unlikely with polling showing nearly 60% of New Yorkers in favor of equality.
But how will this case impact the movement, not just nationally, but internationally? After all, New York is the world capital with its constant flow of people coming in and out. Does this put pressure on the CA Supreme Court, assuming they receive the Prop 8 case, to support marriage equality? If that case reaches the US Supreme Court, does it convince Justice Anthony Kennedy that supporting marriage equality is not so out of step? And what about New Jersey, which has always had this love-hate relationship with its neighbor? Do they now try to play catch up? Or Rhode Island and Maryland, two states where marriage was able to pass one chamber, but not the other this past year. Will the courage and will of the New York legislators now embolden them?
President Truman integrated the military in 1951. It took another 16 years before the Supreme Court would remove the bans on interracial marriages in Loving v. Virginia. Given this time frame, some LGBT advocates had assumed that full marriage equality would happen around 2027, or 16 years after the repeal of DADT. But given the events in New York last week, might this date come sooner?
With six recent national polls (CNN, Gallup, ABC/Washington Post, AP, Public Religion Research Institute) all showing that a majority of Americans support full marriage equality, these LGBT advocates are optimistic that it may happen before the end of this decade. Even haters have publicly conceded that, with polling showing younger people supporting marriage equality reaching 60-70%, that it is a lost battle for them.
Marriage equality is now not a question of “if”, but rather “when.” And when that happens throughout the country, I will be definitely be celebrating. And belting out some tunes!
“I’m in a New York state of mind.” – Billy Joel