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March 10, 2010

A news photo that says it all

(Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

This above-the-fold photo from the front page of today's Washington Post is as priceless a news photo as I have seen in 32 years as a gay rights activist. Rocky Galloway and Reggie Stanley are carrying their 15-month-old daughters Malena and Zoe moments after being married. It wordlessly communicates several things:

  1. It illustrates the fact that the marriage equality bill was not about whether gay folk would be allowed to have families. We had families already. It was about whether those families would be legally protected and respected.
  2. It refutes anti-gay stereotypes. Rocky and Reggie look poised, professional, confident, responsible and masculine. Of course there is nothing wrong with not being masculine, but I am talking about stereotypes here. This glowing family photo defies the stereotypes.
  3. It refutes the lie by our opponents that advocates of same-sex marriage were all rich, white atheists. Rocky and Reggie are as upstanding a couple of black men as you are likely to find. They had a religious ceremony officiated by the Rev. Sylvia E. Sumter. Who can be scared of this? (The answer is, a dwindling number of people.)

I called my dear friend Robert, a gay African American news executive based in New York, and asked him if he had seen today's Washington Post. He hadn't, so he reached for a copy. He was so moved by this photo of these happily married fathers and their well-dressed baby girls that he cried. We were both crying. This news photo by the Post's Bill O'Leary shows with powerful impact what our community has just achieved. Malena and Zoe will grow up in a different world than Robert and I did. They will receive powerful public confirmation that they can expect happiness and positive social reinforcement regardless of whom they love. And they will see their daddies treated as first-class citizens. Pinch me. Yes, this really happened. We really did it. (And yes, you can see me in the photo if you look carefully, but that is incidental. I was fortunate to be a guest and a witness on such a glorious day.)

One further thought: It cannot have been easy for Rocky and Reggie and the other couples to subject themselves on their special day to the media spotlight. We owe them a debt of gratitude that they stepped forward so beautifully. They should be proud of the wonderful job they did of representing their community and the long-unfulfilled aspirations of so many, including many who did not live to see this happen. Thank goodness we did.


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