Independence. Freedom. Fireworks.

by Allyson Sandak

The words in the title of this post evoke thoughts of the Fourth of July.  Due to recent current events, they also evoke thoughts of marriage, in particular New York State’s passage of same-sex marriage.  

I was in California and anxiously waiting to hear the news from the East Coast on June 24.  Being born and raised in New York I was moved to tears with pride and immense happiness – for the fact that this brings us as a nation one step closer to equal rights, and for all my friends in New York, many of whom have been in same-sex relationships for over 30 years who can now have their family formally affirmed and confirmed. 

New York Assemblyman Matthew Tittone (Staten Island, NY’s first openly gay official) acknowledges the importance of this victory but adds, “the real golden ring is federal rights.”   

While advocates of same-sex marriage fight for such federal recognition, there is an opportunity for educators to play a part in LGBT equal rights and awareness now.  When teachers call community-based sexuality educators to schedule presentations for their sex-ed classes, they can suggest sexual orientation as a topic rather than the usual pregnancy and STI prevention.  When teachers and other school staff hear “That’s so gay,” “Fag” and “Dyke” being thrown around the hallways, they can proactively respond to such homophobia letting their students know it is inappropriate, insulting and disrespectful.  Schools can start or strengthen their Gay Straight Alliances.  Social Studies teachers can teach about the changing landscape of marriage rights across the nation and the role of courts and the federal and state legislatures in the process.

Readers, what can you do while we wait for the real golden ring?