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Commissioner Steve Novick

Official Website for Commissioner Steve Novick

Phone: 503-823-4682

fax: 503-823-4019

1221 SW 4th Ave. Suite 210, Portland, OR 97204

Marriage and Flags

It is, of course, awful that so many loving and committed couples had to wait this long to get married... and many, of course, lived and died without ever having had such a chance. But it is also remarkable how quickly America has moved. Eleven years ago I went to the very sad No on Measure 36 election night event, as we endured a 57-43 defeat. (For months afterward, when I would see a car with a "One man, one women" bumper sticker, I would try to pass it and get ahead of it in hopes that the driver would see my "Two men, two women, what's the problem?" sticker.) It was only three years ago that Barack Obama - with a prod from Joe Biden - finally spoke out for love. And it is (as of yesterday!) forty-six years since Stonewall marked the beginning of the gay rights movement.

For the past several years, whenever I've had a chance to speak at a gay and lesbian rights event, I have said: "Thank goodness that there's ONE progressive cause where WE ARE WINNING, and know for sure that history is on our side. Thirty years from now all the coastal cities will probably be under water due to climate change, and the richest 1% will probably have 98% of the wealth and income ... but at least we'll have marriage equality!"

Now that marriage equality is a reality nationwide, far faster than any of us would have imagined just a few short years ago, we should savor the victory, and do so for a long time. But I also see it as a challenge to champions of environmental and economic justice causes: we need to step it up. And we must remember that the fight for true equality for LGBTQ Americans is far from over. Trans Americans, in particular, are subjected to a horrifying amount of sexual violence. And many of the homeless youth on our streets are there because their families have effectively disowned them.

The relative speed of success of the great cause of gay and lesbian rights is highlighted by another dramatic development of the past two weeks: one hundred and fifty years after Appomattox, some Southern states, in the wake of the terrorist attack in Charleston, are actually removing the Confederate flag from their capitol grounds. I remember, living in the Washington, D.C. area, how jarring it was to see Virginia roads named after Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee. Why not Jim Crow Parkway, I wondered? Benedict Arnold Road? It is appalling that it has been considered socially acceptable, in many states, to display symbols of support for slavery for one hundred and fifty years after we fought a bloody war on the subject. And it is terrible that it took a horribly tragic event to make people think twice.

But when the Governor of Alabama, removes the Confederate flag from the Capitol grounds, it's a good day in America. (And when, in his comment on the event, the same Republican governor says that he doesn't want distractions because, among other things, "I have taxes to raise," it adds an extra touch of weird beauty to the moment.)

Oh - one last thing - did you catch the New York Daily News front page? A spectacular effort in keeping with that tabloid's glorious headline history (e.g., "FORD TO NEW YORK: DROP DEAD").