‘Our Generation Led the Way’

Married couple John Lewis, left, and Stuart Gaffney, of San Francisco, hold heart signs outside the U.S. Supreme Court before the start of oral arguments on marriage equality on Tuesday, April 28, 2015. Lewis and Gaffney were plaintiffs in the 2008 court case challenging California's same sex marriage ban.

People celebrate outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on June 26 after its historic decision on gay marriage.

It was my nephew’s wedding about six years ago. He and his bride had asked me to officiate at the ceremony. The irony was probably lost on many, but not on me: Here I was, “marrying” my nephew, yet I was not able to marry my partner of over 30 years.

The wedding was beautiful. During the reception, the emcee asked married couples to come onto the dance floor. It was a standard and sweet gimmick done at many receptions — lovely music and then as the music plays, the emcee asks you to remain on the dance floor if you have been married five, 10, 20, 25, 30, 40 years.

My brothers and their wives hit the dance floor, and my many married nieces, nephews and their wonderful spouses joined in. Eileen and I looked at each other, thinking. And then eyes turned to us from family on the dance floor; folks started waving us to the floor. Eileen stayed still. It wasn’t long, but it was just long enough. Everyone on that dance floor understood her stillness. What was the message?

“No, we are not married, and I want you to take a minute and think about that.”

After sweet Eileen felt the pause was a little bit longer than just long enough, she stood up and we joined everyone on the dance floor. And we were of course one of the last couples standing. It was a small teachable moment for those at the wedding.

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In the aftermath of the historic Supreme Court ruling, we’ll focus on leaders in the LGBT community who in the last 25 years have played large and visible roles in bringing us to this most remarkable of days. We’ll read a lot about the names of attorneys and plaintiffs and hear from the talking heads that run LGBT organizations large and small.

Eileen and I have played those big and visible roles. Eileen launched the LGBT cable channel Logo and produced diverse programming — fiction and nonfiction — one of the very first people to bring to light the horrors of being gay in many countries around the world. I ran GLAAD for nearly a decade, and if you think there are too many gay characters on television, give me a buzz. And in 1993, we won a precedent-setting case, the first second-parent adoption case in New Jersey. Our elder daughter, Scout, became the first kid in the state to legally have two moms.

But it wasn’t only activists like us who made this happen. It was the action on the part of people who took what today might feel like little steps. Consider what you might have done — how you welcomed a gay family into your kids’ classroom, how you embraced the partner of your lesbian sister and educated your kids about what it meant to be gay, how you called out someone for using the word “gay” as a pejorative.

Our generation took big steps and took millions of small steps just like these that led to this most remarkable of days. You supported our college friends as they struggled with their sexual orientation. You were there for us after we came out to our families, inviting us to your houses for holidays while things were still dicey. You listened and learned; you accepted and embraced.

Oh, and let’s not forget: We raised an entire generation of kids, the millennials, who are all about social justice and equality and always will be.

Our generation led the way.

And the payoff? On Friday, President Barack Obama said that the payoff was that “today our union is just a little bit more perfect.”

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For me, I think the real payoff is for our children. I remember being sad for my dad when I came out. I was his only daughter, and when I came out, he lost his shot at walking me down the aisle.

Our kids will live in a different world because our generation fought the good fight. Our friend Ethan can stand and wait for the man of his dreams to come down the aisle. The LGBT sons and daughter of our friends, cousins, neighbors and kids all across the country will be able to dream very different dreams.

Oh yeah, and then there is our daughter Kit. For us, the single greatest gift of this Supreme Court ruling is that, no matter where she lives (and she better be close by or else), when the love of her life comes walking through the door and then when the time is right, Eileen and I can escort her down the aisle sobbing with joy, hopeful that she will find what we have found in our marriage and sure in the knowledge that her marriage will come with not a single string attached.

This is what I call equality.

Photo: Mladan Antonov/AFP/Getty Images

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