“Who ordered the AZT?” the pharmacist yelled across the store as we mindlessly flipped through magazines while waiting for the prescription. He might as well have screamed, “Hey AIDS person,” given the publicity of new drug. Maybe he always yelled like that, though it seemed more likely he wanted to avoid close contact. In 1990, gay meant AIDS which equaled death. Despite my instinct to grab the nearby safety scissors and cut out his larynx, I ignored his professional malfeasance, picked up the drugs, and exited the pharmacy with my mother and older brother, who unbeknownst to us at that point had only a few months left to live.
The June 26th Supreme Court decision guaranteeing the right of same-sex marriage came two days before the 24th anniversary of my brother’s death. Back in 1990, forget gay marriage, it was all about survival. Still, the rainbows that literally lit up skies this past Saturday from Houston to San Francisco sprung from souls shedding multi-colored tears of joy. So strange though that while June 26th took far too long, his death feels like yesterday. And while the speed with which the majority of this Country recently moved past ignorance, intolerance and discrimination to accept gay marriage was astounding, we should recall the words of Jacob August Riis:
When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before.
The decision in Obergefell v. Hodges provides for much more than the issuance of a legal license; it firmly denotes equal humanness for all persons regardless of sexual orientation. Why so important? At the heart of the forces that rendered AIDS treatment a lessor priority, that cause young gay teens to take their own lives, or that forced same-sex families to struggle with the consequences of not recognizing their foundational bond, has been the institutionalized inhumanity towards gays and lesbians. Of course, many concerns remain outstanding, and the law will not overnight amend the conduct of those yet enlightened. Undoubtedly however, the reverberation of the decision’s positive consequences reaches far beyond a piece of very important paper.
I can only imagine my brother’s joy at the events of June 26th. Who knows if, when or to whom he might of married if alive today at age 57. I don’t, but would give anything to find out. Knowing this, I say to the insensitive pharmacist, I hope you remained living to see this day. To parents unable to speak to their gay child, I hope you reconnect. To those who vow to ignore the Supreme Court’s decision, I hope that one day soon you too recognize the changes within our Country, and that while entitled to your religious beliefs, that those beliefs no longer justify discriminating against over 10 million Americans. And to this great County, I hope, I know, that this will not be the last of this kind of day. For we still have much work to do.