Back in June, at the height of the wedding season, I took part in two very important family events. First, I sat with my parents as they celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary. With love and joy, they recounted the now well-told story about how they met, and also doled out some relationship advice -- my dad's general rule sounds a lot like something you'd hear on a classic sitcom: "Son, your mother is always right." Then the following week, I stood next to my brother as the best man at his wedding--proud and emotional as he married his girlfriend of two years.
As my family has done on numerous occasions - from Dean's List announcements to awards at art competitions -- both milestones were announced in the Riverhead News Review, my hometown newspaper. Like many proud parents, my mother takes this very seriously, and makes sure the announcement gets in on time - and everyone knows not to protest.
Six years ago yesterday, The New York Times opened the pages of its Weddings/Celebrations section to gay and lesbian couples after meetings with GLAAD leadership. At the time, GLAAD was able to report that 68 additional daily newspapers around the nation also accepted and printed wedding announcements for same-sex couples.
This week, we were very excited to release a brand new list of inclusive newspapers as part of our Announcing Equality campaign. The change has been dramatic - now there are 1,049 daily newspapers that will accept announcements from same-sex couples, and for the first time, in nine states (Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maine, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont ) and the District of Columbia, every daily newspaper will accept and print announcements for gay and lesbian couples.
Every day in my work at GLAAD, we hear stories from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and their families, friends and allies - stories of happy celebrations, but also of tremendous challenges and roadblocks. We see firsthand how those stories play an important role in changing hearts and minds. It's amazing to see the level of progress in such a short time, and the numbers really speak to an opportunity that the LGBT community and our allies have: to share our stories with the communities where we live, work and contribute.
You see, when weddings and celebrations pages in our local newspapers become inclusive by including the milestones of LGBT Americans alongside their straight families, friends and neighbors, it breaks down barriers. It invests people in our joy and the stories of our celebrations. And it reminds us of common ground we share.
And the opportunities are everywhere - local newspapers, college and alumni newsletters, church and union bulletins. As we work to ensure that laws treat LGBT people fairly, we know that when our stories appear next to those of our friends and family - my future anniversary right next to my brother's, right in the pages of the local paper - shows real cultural change.
There is still work for all of us to do - less than one-third of the papers with inclusive policies have actually printed an announcement from a same-sex couple. Why? Because they've never received one. It just underscores how vital it is that we take the opportunities to share our stories to make our voices heard and our lives visible in our communities. Standing next to my brother, I thought about how proud I was of him, how happy I was that he found someone with whom to share the love and security that marriage provides, and the commitment and responsibility it requires. And I know that he will feel the same way when he stands next to me.
I don't doubt that my mom is already thinking about what my future wedding announcement will look like, just as she is looking ahead to the day when the laws of our state and our nation finally catch up to the reality of gay and lesbian couples and their commitments. But one thing's for sure: newspapers in communities across the country are already there. They have provided each of us - LGBT and straight ally, family member and friend alike - with a way to advance the kind of cultural understanding and acceptance that paves the road to that change. We simply need to take the opportunity and announce our equality.
And for me, thanks to my mother, I learned long before my time at GLAAD that there is no arguing with the important of celebrating ones milestones.
For more resources visit: http://www.glaad.org/AnnouncingEquality You can also find out if your local daily runs inclusive announcements and find information on how to submit announcements, plus downloads for MySpace and Facebook pages and other easy, everyday ways that you can talk about your life in local media outlets and online.