"Hope will never be silent." These relevant and inspiring words come from one of our nation's most prominent LGBT civil rights leaders. Harvey Milk believed in a country, a world, that would honor the God-given rights of all individuals, gay or straight. And today, our hope rang out louder than it ever has before, as the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. Although the decision does not include the freedom to marry for the entire nation, with 12 states and the District of Columbia already recognizing marriage equality, this ruling is in line with the changing tide of equal rights for all.
SCOTUS also ruled to negate the discriminatory effects of California's Proposition 8 ballot initiative. By sending the case back to the Ninth Circuit Court, marriage equality will finally be restored in California after it was unjustly taken away in the 2008 election.
This is a pinnacle moment in a history riddled with struggle and persecution. Millions have advocated for LGBT equality. Some have been beaten, imprisoned, and even murdered as they fought for the rights to live in peace with the people they love. For the first time ever, the majority of Americans support marriage equality and finally understand that civil unions and domestic partnerships are not acceptable as an alternative.
Today I celebrate, but not without some sadness. My bittersweet revelry is due to the fact that my soulmate, the love of my life, tragically died in an accident before we were granted the right to marry each other. We always dreamed of a marriage, a family, and a future filled with love and equality. I may not ever be able to marry my partner Tom, but I wear the ring he gave me every day as a symbol of not only our love but the fight for gay couples everywhere. I'm comforted by the fact that Tom is celebrating today with me... with all of us.
This victory is huge, not only for LGBT citizens but for all of humanity. However, marriage bans remain in the majority of the states, and we must valiantly fight till marriage equality is implemented throughout the entire nation.
We still have a long road ahead of us. Countries like Canada, the Netherlands, Brazil, the United Kingdom, France, and New Zealand have granted marriage equality, but the majority of the world still persecutes the LGBT community, and in some places being gay is still a "crime," sometimes punishable by death. We must keep the victimized gay and lesbians who live in these places close to our hearts and fight for their rights to be realized just as ours were on this day.
I'd like to end the way I began, with a quotation from Harvey Milk: "It's not my victory. It's yours and yours and yours. If a gay can win, it means there is hope that the system can work for all minorities if we fight. We've given them hope." I believe this applies to our win today, and I remain hopeful that further progressive change is not far beyond our reach. Let us celebrate today but continue to fight for a brighter tomorrow. Do not lose sight of the struggles for equality and justice that persist. We will bring light to places still living in a mire of fear, hate, and ignorance, and I hope today's decision will instill love and understanding in the people of our nation and world.