David Mixner | Gay Marriage | News

'That Book' and the Credit for Equality

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BY DAVID MIXNER

Who is Viola Liuzzo?

Drawing a blank?

Since she is not in the history books, most people have never heard of her. Ms. Liuzzo was a white Detroit mother of five who went to Selma, Alabama after the horrific attack by police on voting rights protesters on Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965. After arriving in Selma, she was given the job of transporting marchers. A carload of KKK members pulled alongside her car and shot her to death.

What's the point?

It is simple. She is as much responsible for the 1965 Voting Rights Bill as so many of the famous leaders from that heroic period. However, history will not record her name nor will future generations know the name of so many others who made it possible for our country to have an African-American President today.

History will treat the epic struggle for LGBT freedom exactly the same way. Maybe Harvey Milk and Edie Windsor will rightly be in high school history books but few other names will appear beside them since history is notorious for having limited space.

So everyone should chill about the new book (Forcing the Spring by Jo Becker) on the fight to win marriage equality. In the future, there will be many books, movies, documentaries and oral histories. Each one will have its own version of events and its own anointment of the 'real leaders'.

Who is responsible for taking the LGBT community down the road to freedom?

Each and every one of us is responsible for this remarkable change.

The thousands who stood in line in to get married in the 'Valentine's Day' revolution of 2004 (prompted by Mayor Gavin Newsom issuing marriage licenses) in San Francisco are responsible. The lawyers and plaintiffs who have been fighting in the courts all around America for years are responsible. People who lined up at midnight in different states to be among the first to get married are responsible. Everyone who signed a petition, donated money, attended a rally, came out to  family and friends and contacted their elected officials made marriage equality happen.

Each and every one of us made history. The early pioneers who suffered so much at the hands of the bigots brought us to this point. The young men who died of AIDS and fought for justice to their dying breaths made it happen. The thousands who were beaten, killed or had their homes attacked for being an LGBT American brought us to this point in history.

That is the simple truth.

Many leaders and many books will give us different versions of this journey. Some will rightfully honor heroes, and some will come off as frantic egotistical attempts by figures desperate to be remembered as crucial to this epic moment in history. Some will downplay others' roles in this struggle and some will achieve justified acclaim.

What will be remembered by future generations is our incredible and noble struggle for equality. Very few names will be known but our collective effort will never be forgotten.

Long after I am gone my name will be known to very, very few. What I do know gives me great joy. Deep within my heart I know that I have given everything possible. By joining with other LGBT Americans and our allies I have not only witnessed history but participated in it.

That is a damn good feeling to me and should be enough for everyone.

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Comments

  1. One of the finest commentaries you have ever written, Mr. Mixner.

    Posted by: jamal49 | Apr 22, 2014 12:36:16 PM


  2. To argue with your sentiments, David, would be a little like taking on mom and apple pie. But one can agree with everything you say and still have serious questions about Becker's book. For me, it's not a matter of finding a place in history books. But if there are distortions in a portrayal, it's really okay for people to stand up and point them out.

    Posted by: Frank O'File | Apr 22, 2014 1:00:18 PM


  3. What an awful, condescending column. Please don't tell me to "chill."

    I can feel just as "damn good" as you about having witnessed and participated in history without approving of this book.

    Edie Windsor and Evan Wolfson deserved more from Jo Becker than her disdain. And readers of Towleroad disappointed in Becker's treatment of them deserve more from David Mixner than "everybody chill out."

    Posted by: JeffNYC | Apr 22, 2014 1:26:35 PM


  4. I too can agree with what you say. But Ms. Becker's, a reporter for the "paper of record" choice to limit her version of the struggle to a few influentials and self appointed "heroes" is absurd. Because of her position at the Times her obligation is to present a much more rounded and truthful account to the struggle. Once again it appears the NYTs has gone where the money calls it. If "=" really represents equality why does HRC, like a few fine lawyers, believe that they are more equal than so many others.

    Posted by: Will O'God | Apr 22, 2014 1:36:35 PM


  5. I do not think David is defending Jo Becker, so I am not sure why there is animus to this post? He is simply stating everyone approaches this from a different perspective and no perspective is right (which implies that neither is Jo Becker's) even when they all have some acorn of truth to them.

    And he is rightfully saying it's a meaningless task to give credit to any one person in particular when it is impossible to credit everyone who deserves it.

    Posted by: Samish | Apr 22, 2014 1:50:10 PM


  6. Sorry, David, but there is no reason to need to chill here. If anyone needs to chill it should be the reviewers and writers that take her book seriously. It's a pre-recorded, CLEARLY insider connected 400+ brochure for her friends.

    In other words, it's pathetic and a disservice to the Pulitzer Prize she has. Shame on her for buying the line of whoever shuffled money to her for this crap.

    Posted by: Michael Rogers | Apr 22, 2014 2:48:09 PM


  7. Sorry, David, but there is no reason to need to chill here. If anyone needs to chill it should be the reviewers and writers that take her book seriously. It's a pre-recorded, CLEARLY insider connected 400+ brochure for her friends.

    In other words, it's pathetic and a disservice to the Pulitzer Prize she has. Shame on her for buying the line of whoever shuffled money to her for this crap.

    Posted by: Michael Rogers | Apr 22, 2014 2:48:23 PM


  8. Sorry, David, but there is no reason to need to chill here. If anyone needs to chill it should be the reviewers and writers that take her book seriously. It's a pre-recorded, CLEARLY insider connected 400+ brochure for her friends.

    In other words, it's pathetic and a disservice to the Pulitzer Prize she has. Shame on her for buying the line of whoever shuffled money to her for this crap.

    Posted by: Michael Rogers | Apr 22, 2014 2:50:43 PM


  9. It would be fine to say "don't wory about who gets credit, worry about the outcome," except that all "that book" does is worry about assigning credit - wrongly.

    Fortunately, your contention that history has "limited space" is no longer true. We now have all the space we need via the internet. As a result, it won't be so easy for "that book" to rewrite history.

    Posted by: Steve Huffines | Apr 22, 2014 3:01:08 PM


  10. Good piece, David, as always. In case your readers are interested, here's my weekend column on this subject:

    http://www.calbuzz.com/2014/04/writing-gay-history-the-honeymoon-is-over/

    Posted by: Hank Plante | Apr 22, 2014 3:14:58 PM


  11. Michelangelo Signorile shows how the book distorts history by selection and omission:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michelangelo-signorile/the-worst-problem-with-jo_b_5185688.html?utm_hp_ref=michelangelo-signorile

    In NY, Marriage Equality and the Empire State Pride Agenda did the ground work for many years; HRC coming in at the end was helpful but not determinative.

    Amen, JEFFNYC

    Posted by: Murdoch | Apr 22, 2014 5:20:29 PM


  12. As always, Mixner displays a breathtaking lack of self-awareness. If an LGBT history book unjudiciously cropped a bunch of Friends of David® out of the historical record, Mixner would be the first one screaming bloody murder about it.

    Posted by: 24play | Apr 22, 2014 5:37:19 PM


  13. Viola Liuzzo is not entirely lost to history. The 2004 documentary film, "Home of the Brave," documents her forgotten activism and its contribution to eventual passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. The film is pretty disturbing, for in addition to celebrating her heroism, the film examines the acquittal by an all-white jury of the four Klansmen who went to trial for the murder, one of whom was an FBI informant. It also looks at the tragic effects on Viola's children of the extent to which her life and murder have been devalued or ignored. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0389009/

    Posted by: MichaelJ | Apr 22, 2014 5:59:11 PM


  14. Posted by: 24play

    Or, in the case of the recent Jerry Smith (the former NFL player) documentary, Mixner will puff up his role and hog as much of the media spotlight as he can.

    Posted by: Henry Holland | Apr 22, 2014 6:48:21 PM


  15. This isn’t just about Jo Becker; it’s just as much about the loudest voice against her—Andrew Sullivan. He’d like us to remember that he was writing about gay marriage in 1989 and that marriage is his legacy from the last 25 years (and not his equally fervid support of George W. Bush, the Iraq war, and unprotected bath house sex). But what did he actually get done? When I hear Sullivan and others like him complaining that their years in the trenches have been dissed, I am reminded of something the character Roy Cohn says in Kushner’s “Angels in America.” Told by a friend that he should admit he’s gay, Cohn says “A homosexual is somebody who, in 15 years of trying cannot get a pissant anti-discrimination bill through the city council. A homosexual is somebody who knows nobody and who nobody knows. Who has zero clout. Does this sound like me Henry?” Sullivan’s early argument for marriage was prescient, but in demanding recognition for his work from 1989, he simply reminds us that in 25 years his argument did not get the ball over the finish line. Sorry, blog readers, but that was done by some really good lawyers and their clients, not by professional and amateur great thinkers on blogs and comment strings.

    Posted by: Lyle Sparks | May 3, 2014 1:34:13 PM


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