‘That Book’ and the Credit for Equality



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.