In 2008 I returned late from celebrating President Obama's victory to discover that Proposition 8 had passed in California. At the time I was a freshman in college. That such a supposedly liberal state would strip the right to marry from an entire portion of its citizens was appalling to me -- but it struck me on a much deeper level. It is difficult to describe to someone who has not experienced it what it feels like to be told that your relationships are worth less than someone else's, that your love means less, that who you are is wrong. But that is what I felt that night. I was inconsolable for days.
Much has been said about the bullying that gay kids endure in our nation's schools and playgrounds. But little has been said about the bullying our nation's youth have faced at the hands of our politicians and our electorate.
Time and again, the right wing has used referenda as means to exclude queer people from legal recognition. But the impact goes beyond "only" prohibiting us from marrying or adopting. These campaigns, and the politicians who promote them and run on platforms of hate, foster a sense of self-hatred in queer youth. They appear to legitimate the anti-gay bullying in our schools. They send the message that being gay is not OK. There is an appalling disregard for the basic humanity of queer people that manifests itself everywhere from town halls to television ads.
It is hardly any wonder, then, that up to a quarter of queer kids who come out to their parents are kicked out of their homes; it is hardly a surprise that the queer suicide rate is many times that of the straight one.
Last night was a watershed moment in our nation's history. After dozens of states approving hurtful referenda and sending the message to their gay, lesbian and bisexual citizens that they are worth less than their straight neighbors, at long last majorities have stood up and said "no."
So while we're all celebrating -- rightly -- the reelection of President Obama, and the fact that our president will remain the same, let us also remember how much has changed in the mere four years since Proposition 8. I want to emphasize how historic last night was. We not only reelected the first African-American president in American history, but we also reelected the first sitting president to endorse marriage equality. We elected the first openly gay senator. For the first time, we defeated a referendum to ban marriage equality, and for the first time, we passed marriage equality by referendum.
Last night will be remembered as a milestone in the progress of LGBT equality in this country, not only in our history books but on a very personal level by every queer kid who watched the results come in tonight.