Posted: Jul 1st, 2011
“They told me it would never happen…”
A week ago today, the New York State Senate passed the Marriage Equality Act by a vote of 33–29. Thirty days after the bill is signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo, it will grant same sex couples the same legal rights as heterosexual couples. New York will become the sixth state in the union to offer these protections, and it is the largest to pass this type of legislation to date.
Where were you when you heard the news? I was sitting in the Embassy Suites hotel lounge in Tampa, FL, with other attendees of the NOW Annual Conference enjoying a beer. A woman came over to a large group assembled at some tables and announced to everyone “they just passed marriage equality in New York!” The lounge erupted in applause and cheering. But wait, it hasn’t been passed just yet. She asked the bartender to turn the channel to CNN so we could follow the story as it was unfolding. About 45 minutes later, another round of applause and celebration ensued amongst the patrons; New York had PASSED the Marriage Equality Act!
I was discussing this with my friends at the bar when I noticed the woman who had initially come over to inform the rest of us of what was happening. She was sitting at a table behind me, looking overwhelmed, speechless and teary eyed all at once. I went over and introduced myself, told her how happy I was about the news and that I was sharing in her joy. She looked at me and said “you know, they told me it would never happen, but we just kept chipping away, working, never giving up”. She asked me what I was working on, and I told her Medicare for All, single payer health care. I shared with her that people tell me on a regular basis, “that’s never going to happen”, and that I draw great strength and inspiration from her dedication and perseverance. She thanked me for my work, looked me in the eye and told me to tell people who say single payer will never happen “to go [gestured middle finger extended]”! We shared a smile and a unspoken moment of glory, then I went back to my seat.
I get chills when I tell this story to friends and colleagues. The bottom line is, we’re here, we’re becoming more and more organized, and we’re not going anywhere. I believe that single payer WILL happen in California and nationally, it’s just a matter of when. As with the struggle for marriage equality, civil rights and other social and environmental issues, justice will prevail. We are fighting the good fight, passionately and sincerely. We will continue chipping away, working and organizing.
I have this dream that one day I’ll be at a national gathering of some sort, and single payer, Medicare for all will pass in the legislature or on the ballot. Then I will get to share with a young, eager activist exactly what one brave woman shared with me on that hot & humid Florida night back in 2011, “they told me it would never happen”.
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”. –Mohandas Gandhi