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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 2, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 44
Grassroots to lawsuits
Section One
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Grassroots to lawsuits

How an 'army of lovers' became a gaggle of lawyers

by Abby Dees - SGN Contributing Writer

Last weekend I was the emcee at my local Pride festivities. It had been a while since I'd done anything Pride-y, so I didn't know what to expect. Historically, suburban Pride events have been more about strollers and soy Frappuccinos than leather chaps and fifteen-dollar beer.

But I didn't anticipate a moribund party whose biggest draw was a mobile free clinic courtesy of the local health department. As I stood on stage looking out, about to announce a demonstration by an LGBT square-dancing club, I wanted to call out, 'Is anyone here not a volunteer or a vendor?' But that would have been bitchy.

I thought even hinterlands Pride was supposed to be, well, an occasion.

WHAT HAPPENED?
It made me think about the great Lesbian activist Ivy Bottini (famously drummed out of NOW by the Lesbian-impaired Betty Friedan), who expressed a keen sense of loss to me recently: as we assimilate, we lose our passion, our sense of specialness, and in particular our anger - things that empower us, as a community, to fight for our very survival. Pride meant 'we're alive, dammit!' Or at least you could hook up.

I'm not sure what it means now. I don't know anyone who went to Pride this year who wasn't trying to promote something. It's been a long time since Pride was an LGBT High Holy Day, or even just fun, at least in my neck of the woods.

Sure, there's still plenty to be angry about, like Gay bashing, reparative therapy, and powerful groups pouring millions into campaigns to stop same-sex marriage - but something has quietly changed over the years. Ivy is right. We're talking about marriage and partner benefits, not our simple right to exist in the daylight. If you're on the same mailing lists I'm on, you're getting solicitations for $250-a-plate awards dinners to celebrate some Gay celebrity who's also the face of a cosmetics firm.

I'm not knocking any of this, but I miss the days when I truly believed the slogan, 'An army of lovers cannot fail.' Hell, I miss the word 'lover.' I mourn that rush of freedom that made Pride a profoundly meaningful counterpoint to daily life.

I know there are LGBT warriors nowadays with more passion for justice than I could ever muster, but they are one-offs compared to a generation ago. This is partly because they aren't facing the cruelty of AIDS at a time when the president (Ronald Reagan, if you're inclined to remember him fondly) refused even to say the word 'AIDS' out loud. Mostly, though, it's because many of us have become complacent about the gains we've made. We're fine-tuning now, not overturning.

So that's my lament about what we've lost. Now please follow me ...

NEW VENUE, SAME FIGHT
Things are happening this very moment that will take our community where we could only have imagined even 10 years ago. Nothing sexy - no fuchsia banners or megaphones. Actually, it has to do with tax law.

Last month, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in favor of Lesbian widow Edie Windsor, age 83. When her partner of 42 years died in 2009, Windsor owed $363,000 in estate taxes, which she would not have been required to pay if her partner were a man. Despite a vigorous fight by House Republicans (who I thought were supposed to be against taxes), the court not only struck down a key part of DOMA, but announced that legal discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation should be subject to the same heightened legal scrutiny that discrimination based on race and gender gets.

This is the second time this year that a federal appeals court ruled DOMA unconstitutional, which tells me that Windsor's win is no fluke. Several more LGBT rights cases have won in the lower federal courts, making their way, inevitably, to the Supreme Court, perhaps as soon as next year.

Our movement has officially entered a new phase. This is our battlefield today - the warriors are wearing suits. I'm thrilled, but I hope there will always be room in the movement for some pissed-off, gorgeous drag queen to march up the steps of... anything... for the sake of Pride.

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