06/26/2013 05:16 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

The Victory Is Not Yet Won

We often assume that we are living in the shadow of history, that the great moments have passed, that the great moral victories over racism and sexism have already occurred, that the great wars have already been won, and that our places and our moments in history are minor. We fear that we will be defined by what has been done to us and not by what we have done. The world is grayer than it was in the past, we presume, and good and evil no longer fight in clear, delineated armies.

The defeat of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act today assures us that we were wrong. Rarely in our lives do we have the chance to feel the groundswell of national emotion that comes with history-making moments, those dashes in the construction-paper timelines that our children will make in civics class. Many of those moments for people my age have been negative -- Bush v. Gore, September 11th, the Boston Marathon bombings. Today is a day for positivity, but tomorrow we must plan for the future.

My partner served first as a lawyer and now as a board member for Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD). From him, I learned more about legal strategy, about Mary Bonauto, and about the complex behind-the-scenes fundraising, litigating and enormous hard work that brought us to this moment. I knew little of this before. So I know that there are many of my friends who are celebrating, and who contributed to the decision through trial cases and amicus briefs, and I am thankful for their dedication.

But I find that the joy I feel on this day, June 26th, 2013, when the government of the United States recognized my legitimacy and dignity as a human being, is already short-lived. I think about how this same Court gutted the Voting Rights Act just yesterday. I think about Wendy Davis, standing for thirteen hours in the Texas Legislature against misogyny and oppression, and about the long lines that await African-American voters in the next Southern election. So though I feel joy, I recognize that I am here, in Boston, relatively safe. But I did not come from here. I still cannot get married in my home state of North Carolina, where marriage between two men is constitutionally banned by an overwhelming popular vote.

The Supreme Court did a good thing today, but it did not go far enough. Forced to confront a choice they would have preferred to avoid, the justices chose moral decency and sound legal reasoning. But at the same time, with the Proposition 8 decision, they chose not to lead. Now there will be two Americas -- 13 states (a number mirroring our original union) where I can marry, and 37 others that could decide my marriage does not have standing. We are still dangerously divided. We will have states where minorities can easily vote, and states where they will wait in long lines, or be charged fees for ID cards, or be denied the right to vote altogether. We will have states where women cannot safely obtain an abortion, no matter the reason. Gays in rural America will still fear for their lives and see no happily married couples to give them hope. Women without access to adequate health care will be prisoners in their own bodies.

So there are clear lines that cut across issues of self-interest. There are those of us who know what it is like to be left out, to be oppressed, to be denied rights. And there are others who have never experienced discrimination, who don't understand the need for laws that level the playing field. They fear the other, and they fear losing power. There is still Justice Scalia, ranting about "homosexual sodomy." And he is the norm in many, many states in this country.

So I will take today to celebrate. But there is more work to be done, and so many people suffering, and the path is much longer than we think. There is much more history to be made, and miles to go before we sleep.