As the situation stands in Albany today, I have untold amounts of people fighting for my right to get married in my home state of New York. In most countries around the rest of the world, this remains a pipe dream.
Early this morning, buses coordinated by the five-coalition effort headed by the omnipresent gay rights group, Human Rights Campaign, left Midtown, shipping hundreds of LGBT people and their allies to the steps of the labyrinthine New York State Capitol to hold signs, shout, phone senators from their mobiles and demand the State Senate hand over the gays' inalienable right to marry. This follows a week of much of the same in Empire State Plaza, culminating in the city on Sunday afternoon with a "Last Day of Inequality" rally in Union Square.
What will take place upstate today or tomorrow is still very much up in the air. I'm still receiving the countless Facebook status posts updating me on Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos' (R-9th) every move. In the meantime, this happened: On June 15, at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, the South African delegation introduced the UN Resolution on the Human Rights of Gay Persons, and by a vote of 23 to 19, the resolution was adopted, setting an internationally backed standard against the discrimination of LGBT people. This is a historic moment for not only people across the world, but across the African continent, which has been mired in instances of harsh punishment of gays for decades. It even has a chance to stymie the efforts in Uganda to make open homosexuality punishable, in some instances, by death.
It's not marriage, but in my book, it's quite a large leap in the scheme of advancing gay rights around the world, with an even greater impact.
Not to diminish the fight for gay marriage in the U.S. I was working at the Washington Blade, an LGBT newspaper in Washington, the day Massachusetts passed its historic legislation and spent the rest of the summer of 2004 chasing down news of the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment, put into motion by an unscrupulous president cynically looking to guarantee his re-election. We've come a long, long way in seven years.
But that summer, I also covered the aftermath of the Egypt's Queen Boat trial in which 52 LGBT men and women were accused of offending religion and practicing debauchery for dancing at an LGBT disco moored in the Nile. They subsequently spent months in jail and were subjected to torture, including physical examinations to discern whether or not they engaged in gay sex. I also told the story of Yorro Kuyateh, a gay man from Gambia, who had fled his country under impossible circumstances rather than face a lifetime in and out of prison for his sexual orientation, known largely in West Africa as political crimes against the state.
Like gay marriage, the UN Resolution on the Human Rights of Gay Persons has been hard won -- and it took years and years of lobbying. This time last year the same resolution was handily voted down and six months later, an annual resolution that condemned the unjustified killing of various categories of vulnerable people dropped -- for the first time since 1999 -- the term "sexual orientation" at the urging of Arab and African nations. According to Amnesty International, consensual same-sex relations remain illegal in 76 countries worldwide, while harassment as well as discrimination of LGBT people are well overlooked by the authorities.
Despite the marriage situation, people in the United States can take heart, however, especially as the basic rights of LGBT people around the world are fought. The U.S. has openly condemned Uganda's draft legislation making certain homosexual acts a capital offense. And, according to Suzanne Nossel of the State Department, the new resolution puts a political "spotlight" on repression, discrimination and violence against LGBT people. "It sends a message that the international community rejects it, that governments that condone and pursue those policies are outliers, that they're at odds with an international norm," Nossel said in a statement last Friday. "It also puts in place reporting so that activists and victims of abuses have a place to turn."
Although I have always believed in equal rights for LGBT people as a gay person, in recent years I have not actively participated in marriage rallies and Don't Ask, Don't Tell marches, simply because it's hard for me to ask for more, more, more when others around the world have so little of the privileges we take for granted every day. In a perfect world the gay marriage bill in New York will pass in the same week as the UN Resolution. Even if the New York State Senate, with all eyes on it to do the right thing and save face, refuses to act in everybody's interest, I'll walk away a happy woman. Because I can still hold and kiss and love anyone I choose openly, while most people in the rest of the world can't.