Watching the President sign off on an Executive Order banning federal contractors from discriminating against the LGBTQ community last week, I was struck by how far our community has come. Just a few weeks prior, I was honored to represent MEUSA, our volunteers and members at the White House Pride Reception hosted by the President and the First Lady.Captivated by the historical immensity of the White House, I heard the President speak from the heart and joke with guests. I watched as he welcomed hundreds of LGBT activists. While meeting both the President and the First Lady was an honor, the power in that moment was in reminding me how far our own grassroots, volunteer-driven organization has come in changing the conversation around marriage equality in almost 20 years of work.
When Marriage Equality USA (then Marriage Equality New York) first began in 1996 after the enactment of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), few in our community (LGBTQ or political) would even dare to dream about, much less utter the phrase, "marriage equality." It took years of hard work, grassroots organizing, education and pushing against the establishment to make friends, lawmakers and the public understand that marriage mattered. MEUSA's unique history has allowed us to participate in both grassroots organizing as well as bringing the voices of so many grassroots organizers to more traditional halls of power. Now, as state after state embraces the goal for which so many of us have toiled for so long, we remember that our success stands in honor of those who have been with us from day one — especially those who toiled without ever having felt the joy of full marriage equality in their lifetimes.
For all those whose hard work and dedication to MEUSA made that collective White House moment possible, I humbly say, thank you.