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Op-ed: Celebration With Trepidation

Op-ed: Celebration With Trepidation


As we've learned with the landmark cases of the civil rights movement, the Supreme Court's decree is often not enough.

I wonder what it felt like for advocates and community members whose efforts were vindicated back in 1954 when Brown v. Board of Education was announced, or in 1967 when Loving v. Virginia came down. I wonder if they felt the mix of emotions that I felt all day when Wednesday's marriage equality decisions were released: love, elation, anxiety, relief, disbelief, fear, impatience, anger, confusion, fatigue, hope, faith ... the litany goes on.

We may have witnessed two of the most important Supreme Court decisions of our time. and it is a monumental victory for LGBT people to have the court affirm our equality. I am truly proud and grateful to be a part of a movement that, after decades of hard work, community organizing, and visionary leadership, has won a measure of equality.

My happiness has been tempered, however, by the reality of the political environment we are living in today. In the days leading up to the favorable rulings, this very court disappointed us with a dismantling of the Voting Rights Act, a civil rights achievement arguably as important as Brown v. Board of Education. We also got a tepid affirmation of the legitimacy and importance of affirmative action as a means to provide equal opportunity for all, not to mention decisions that limit workers' protections and rights against overzealous prosecution.

The Senate may have passed the immigration reform bill Thursday, but our hopes for inclusive and genuine immigration reform have been stalled by a regressive House that seems intent on turning all immigrants into criminals, building a militarized fortress around our borders, and keeping immigrant families apart forever. And in states across the country, as Texas lawmaker Wendy Davis illustrated, women's rights are under attack and anti-immigration policies are being propagated.

Some might accuse me of being a malcontent, of not appreciating progress when it's made; why not celebrate the good things and why focus so much on what we lack? My response: because it's not enough. It wasn't back in the '50s, '60s, or '70s, and it's not good enough now. I am celebrating these days with everyone at API Equality-LA and all our allies across the state and nation because we have made a huge step forward Wednesday. But I also insist that we remember that it is not enough.

Audre Lorde wrote that there are no single-issue movements because we are not single-issue people. She reminds us always that there is more to do to achieve the social justice and equality we all deserve.

At API Equality-LA, this means that our advocacy for immigration reform will continue in full force; so many people, including LGBT people, still need this reform. It means we will redouble our efforts to talk with people in our community to build understanding about LGBT equality and to put an end to bullying, family rejection, isolation. And we will continue to work with others to work on the many issues that affect our communities.

When the Brown v. Board of Education ruling came out, we were in the thick of Jim Crow, the Red Scare, and U.S. empire expansion into Asia and Latin America. When Loving v. Virginia came out, we were mired in Vietnam and still had not achieved civil rights or women's rights. The Supreme Court decisions were not enough then, and they are not enough now. And we have so much work to do.

Still, I am celebrating now. Our families are better protected. Love overcame hate. Honor for our families has overridden fear and isolation. And more than ever before, we are moving forward as a community. Together, we can do so much more, and I'm excited for the future.

EILEEN MA is the executive director of API Equality-L.A.

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