Read one of the most heartfelt letters a newspaper has ever published.It seems that a century’s worth of progress has been made for gay rights since the dawn of the millennium fifteen years ago. Back then, not a single U.S. state had marriage equality. The term “marriage equality” was not even a part of the social zeitgeist. But today, marriage equality is the law of the land in all but a handful of states. It looks likely that the Supreme Court will soon rule on a right to marriage for all. And just yesterday, Ireland — traditionally a very conservative, Catholic country — became the first nation to pass (and overwhelmingly so) marriage equality by national referendum.
Even more importantly than marriage, a social revolution has made being an LGBT person more socially accepted — at times even celebrated — than the kids of the year 2000 could’ve ever dreamed. Still, there are constant reminders of the work that remains to be done.
We still see the forces of discrimination and bigotry hard at work to stave off the tide of freedom and acceptance that LGBT people are now experiencing. Evangelicals rally around viciously anti-gay reality show stars — like the Robertson family of Duck Dynasty or the Duggars of 19 Kids and Counting. And that’s why it’s important to remember that, for all these gains, there is still work to be done.
In April 2000, a mother named Sharon Underwood from White River Junction, Vermont wrote one of the most heartfelt and pointed letters to the editor that the Valley News has probably ever received. In the letter, she expressed her righteous anger at the local do-gooders whose moralism had for years inflicted pain and torment on her young gay son. That letter is still prescient today. Even now, it tells the story of thousands of LGBT youth trapped in communities where they still aren’t welcome.