05/30/2008 10:06 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

David Paterson's Vision

Yesterday, Governor David Paterson directed the state of New York to honor same sex marriage licenses performed outside the state. David Paterson is my new favorite person.

When David was a kid, and his parents would go out of town, he and his brother would stay with dear family friends, Uncle Stanley and Uncle Ronald. From this morning's New York Times article, it appears that the governor remembers their time together fondly. It sounds like the gay couple in young David's life took good care of them.

Here's to Stanley and Ronald. The article doesn't mention where they are today. If they are still alive, I'm sure that the 'best political team in the Milky Way' will track them down this morning. I'd be sad if I find out that they are no longer alive because they missed a day and a decision from their nephew that says a great deal about them -- about their visibility in a time when the risk was great. And about the influence they had on a young man who grew up to be governor and whose commitment to diversity is unwavering:

"I was raised in a culture that understood the different ways that people conduct their lives. And I feel very proud of it."

The story of David's two uncles offers us two lessons.

First, it reminds us that visibility is the key. It doesn't matter what the issue is. You cannot understand what you cannot see and you cannot accept what you do not understand. More and more Americans have Uncle Stanleys and Uncle Ronalds and with these relationships, gay rights move from abstract to quite real. And with that reality, inaccurate and often bigoted stereotypes begin to fade. And the education process can begin.

Secondly, it reminds us of the need for allies. We need straight men and women in positions of leadership who see understand that securing equality for gay and lesbian Americans is a civil rights issue, a human rights issue. But most importantly, we need those leaders not to just know that but to feel that. It won't be enough for it to be an intellectual exercise -- it must come from the heart.

There was such clarity in Paterson's remarks yesterday and a refreshing authenticity that is sadly unique in politics today. With little to gain politically, I had this sense that Paterson felt compelled -- that of course the decision came from his head but it also came from his heart.

It is a visionary leader who is able to bring the practical and the emotional together -- drawing a compelling picture for us of what can be done with what we dream of and hope for.

A powerful and authentic display of vision. From the blind governor of the state of New York.