America's Gay Rights Movement Is The Pride Of The Left

This article comes to us courtesy of San Francisco Magazine.

By Nina Martin

Four years have passed since Kate Kendell heard the champagne corks popping off the walls during the Barack Obama victory celebration at the Westin St. Francis. She remembers with pristine clarity the muffled whoops and cheers as one state after another tipped into the D column, the roars as John McCain conceded, and the way the whole country seemed to choke up at the same moment as the first African American president-elect took the stage in Chicago. But what Kendell recalls most about that evening is the bitterness of what came next: the searing confirmation that polls predicting the passage of Proposition 8, the ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage in California, had been dismally accurate.

In one of the bluest states in the country, neighbors had sided against neighbors, coworkers against coworkers, relatives against relatives. To Kendell--executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, resident of the Excelsior, spouse of Sandy Holmes, mom of two--the vote against marriage equality was a "punch in the gut," a rejection of everything she'd been working toward for 25 years. Not even the election of the man she ardently believed would be "the most fierce and inspiring president in my lifetime" could soften the blow.

Heading into this November's election, with same-sex-marriage referendums on four state ballots and the Supreme Court likely to hear at least one case on the issue this term, you'd think that Kendell would again be readying herself for heartbreak. And she might be, if it weren't for an extraordinary turn of events. Since 2009, her movement has been on a remarkable run, with so many notches on its victory belt that activists like Kendell hardly even dwell on the defeats (and, on a state-by-state level, there have been some significant ones).

A highlight reel of LGBT wins includes passage of the federal Matthew Shepard hate-crimes law and the legalization of same-sex marriage in Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Washington, D.C., and, sweetest of all, New York. There have been new rules extending all sorts of benefits--housing, hospital visitation, medical leave, and more--to the families of LGBT federal employees; the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"; the Justice Department's decision to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act in court; and, finally, the icing on the wedding cake: Obama's public endorsement of same-sex marriage. (Never mind that it took a Joe Biden gaffe to get him there.)

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