June 27, 2013

Standing on the steps of the United States Supreme Court, in the midst of the joyous roar that greeted the court’s decisions on DOMA and Prop 8, Rep. Mark Takano of California was beaming. “I feel jubilation, I feel fabulous, I feel every gay word I can think of.”

Takano, the first out member of Congress from California, and so many others have earned those “gay words” and all the glittering adjectives they can find to describe the hard-won joy countless Americans are experiencing today. Sitting in my hotel room here in Charlotte, North Carolina — a state that just last year passed a ban on same-sex marriages — I kept staring at the bright, blank sky outside my window, hoping to latch onto a word of my own. I was happy, yes, but also heartsick. The much welcomed end of DOMA and Prop 8 comes just 24 hours after the Supreme Court essentially gutted the Voting Rights Act. As such, many queer people of color — myself included — feel conflicted, to say the least. (I won’t even entertain the word “bittersweet” here.)

The Voting Rights Act, essentially a cornerstone of the civil rights movement, is arguably as significant an issue for African-Americans as marriage equality is for LGBT Americans.