Indeed, this year's Independence Day is a little bit different. This is the first time I have truly felt that my country of origin has made a real statement that I, as a lesbian, am entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. "Happiness" in this case is the fundamental civil right to be married and have my marriage recognized in all 50 states and not just a bizarre patchwork of local county ordinances and such. That "happiness", by extension, goes to those LGBT people who choose not to marry. It is now a choice. This is wonderful, and a bit bizarre, given the long period of "outlier" status we've had as gay people. You start to grow kind of accustomed to that place, creating your own rules and reality. But now our reality is being brought into the fabric of the nation for real. I'm OK with this.
At the same time, as I consider closely where we are with our many intersections of identities in this nation, I'm still unsettled and troubled. Lots of people have been sharing the words of Frederick Douglas about what Independence Day means to a slave. Believe me, I can't help but be reminded that we still have not guaranteed life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness when people are killed for their skin color. When the fact that your skin contains more melanin than mine means that you are denied access to a job or housing, how in the world can that leave you happy? I'm not happy, and I'm the one who has the privilege that affords me those things which are denied to black and brown people. Add to the mix the intersection of skin color and sexual or gender identity and watch the disparity grow. Where is the happiness and the fireworks in that? I know this type of discrimination exists. And it must end.
The United States, like any other nation on earth, will only be made stronger when all its people are treated with respect and dignity. As I think about purple mountain majesties and amber fields of grain, I think about the vast and amazing beauty that can be seen in all of our people. And I think that we have failed to lower those mountains and lift up those fields, so that we're all walking together on the same plain. This is the desire for justice that has been with me all my life, and is my ongoing commitment to all my brothers and sisters. In my world, and my vision, all means all. Liberty and justice for all. That is the pledge I will make to my country and its citizens.