On November 10th, 1942, Prime Minister Winston Churchill somberly spoke to the war weary British people in a radio broadcast during the depths of World War II, shortly after a hard won battle victory against Rommel's troops in Egypt, "Now this is not the end," he told them, "It is not even the beginning of the end. but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."
Since the early 1960s when World War II combat veteran PFC Frank Kameny, Barbara Gittings and so many other courageous Queer pioneers began the modern gay rights movement, we have battled on and on passing the torch from one generation to the next. Nearly half a century later, Dr. Kameny has lived to see the President of the United States signing the bill authorizing the repeal of the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy. We awaited Certification through June and most of July, until the President, Secretary of Defense, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs signed it on July 22nd. This will now be followed by 60 days more of waiting, until the day comes that gay and lesbian Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Coasties, and Reservists no longer need to live in fear of an inquisition of interrogation, discharge, and disgrace simply because of who they are.
Here in New York State, the first day of legal same sex marriage was on Sunday July 24 after decades of delay, and a month more of waiting. Couples who have loved each other since the sixties at last could wed.
This Summer of 2011 has been one of waiting for the first days of freedom to arrive. What will it be like the day after when the two-groom wedding cakes are eaten and the Hoaaahs have been shouted? Will we be able to put away all the banners, flags, and protest signs and just live like ordinary folks? No. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) blocks the federal government from recognizing those nice new marriages; no joint tax returns, no joint benefits of any kind, and no recognition from most other states. That same damn DOMA will also prevent equal benefits for gay and lesbian service members; no partner recognition, no nothing for their partners or kids. If two soldiers are shot side by side in Afghanistan, they will medevaced together to Rhamstein. The straight service member's spouse will be flown to his or her bedside free of charge and their kids will be cared for; but there will be nothing for the gay soldier's spouse, even if they were married in Massachusetts. On the first days of freedom, equality will still be denied.
The Right To Marry and Right To Serve victories are the beginning of our freedom; they are perhaps the end of the beginning of the battle for full equality. They are certainly something to celebrate after so long. But, after celebrating, it's back to "out of the bars and into the streets," back to negotiating and demanding. We're done with waiting. We're not going to wait another fifty years for full equality.