03/09/2012 06:33 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

The Bridge

Wow, what a month.

The Federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals declared that California's Proposition 8 was unconstitutional (again), while marriage equality surged forward in the states of Washington, New Jersey, and Maryland. A "million moms" amounted to less than 40,000 and were widely denounced for their protest of JCPenney over that retailer's "audacity" in hiring one of America's most popular celebrities as their spokesperson, as well as their failed boycott of ToysRUs' sales of Archie comics with Kevin Keller's wedding featured on the cover. Meanwhile, the promise of new political and organizational leadership has been front and center across the LGBT equality movement.

With all that forward momentum, it is hard not to think that we are finally feeling the impact of decades of progress in building a real bridge to equality across the country.

But just because we build this bridge doesn't mean that everyone is ready to walk across it.
I had a potent reminder of this on Sunday as I watched many of today's leaders in the civil rights movement walking over the Edmund Pettus Bridge on a five-day march to remind us -- again -- that in spite of the progress we've made, the battle is not done.

I was born the year that our country passed a federal civil rights law. And yet 48 years after our nation built that important symbolic bridge, those leaders are still literally marching over this bridge as a reminder that despite policy shifts, racism still exists and has taken on forms different from the violence of that Sunday so many years ago.

In Louisania, where I was born and raised, I saw and lived in the dissonance that exists between the ideal of laws passed and the reality of attitudes that needed to shift. That is one of the key truths of any struggle for change -- a law may be changed, but living the ideal that the law embodies can be frustratingly slow, as changing beliefs and attitudes takes much longer.

People aren't machines; we are a sum total of our life experiences, raised in different cultures, different faiths, and different communities, and our biases are what they are. And left unchallenged or unexposed to different perspectives, we cannot expect them to change. The passage of laws and desires of leaders do not change hearts and minds; they merely create the necessary bridge for people to walk across. People walk across -- and change occurs -- with leadership at a grassroots level: when LGBT people and their families, friends, and allies get others to join them, to talk with them, to share their stories and lead them across that bridge.

So, we must continue our advocacy work to change policy across the country, and I am confident that we will eventually have the law, the momentum, and the majority of Americans on our side without having to worry about being stopped on our way across the bridge by referendums, ballot measures, and boycotts. Support and education must continue so that our fellow citizens and neighbors understand why these laws and policies are so important and how they impact us all and ultimately result in stronger and healthier families and communities where we live, work, worship, and educate our children.

As Georgia Congressman John Lewis -- strong supporter of LGBT equality and one of the first on the Edmund Pettus Bridge 48 years ago, and again this past Sunday -- said, "This is a question of human dignity and of human rights."