News & Politics

LGBT People Have Much To Be Grateful for This Thanksgiving

Despite recent heartbreaking setbacks, things are better for gay Americans now than at any other time in the nation's history.

President-elect Barack Obama's great love of Abraham Lincoln has me spending chilly evenings curled up with a history book or two. Turns out that honest, sad-eyed Abe knew the importance of staying in close touch with gratitude, of giving thanks even in the midst of turmoil and disappointment.

In October 1863, President Lincoln was locked in the middle of the terrible civil war that was "testing," as he would put it a few weeks later in Gettysburg, whether a "nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal ... can long endure." In other words, not only was victory nowhere in sight, he didn't even know whether the nation would survive.

Yet, Lincoln chose that moment to turn Thanksgiving into a national holiday to be celebrated every November. Putting his well-hidden sunny side on display, he issued a proclamation accentuating the positive: "The year that is drawing towards its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source ... others have been added. ... (H)armony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict ... ."

My first thought was, "Hey, that's a mighty big exception, President Pollyanna!" But upon reflection I realized Lincoln was striking exactly the right tone. Thanksgiving Day comes at the end of autumn, when everything that can be harvested that year has already been taken. Winter's harshness is quickly closing in.

Late November is the perfect time to express appreciation for the bounty that will provide comfort throughout the coming season, when spring isn't even a glimmer in Mother Nature's eye. Lincoln's upbeat declaration is a reminder Thanksgiving isn't the time for financial-ledger accounting of the year's results: If spring was too soggy and the apples had worms, that's a discussion for another day.

Thanksgiving is a time to focus on the year's blessings. And those of us who are gay or gay-friendly have plenty to savor: Lt. Gov. David Paterson, who fondly recalls the gay couple who helped raise him, unexpectedly stepped into New York's governorship and soon declared that his state would honor same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.

Following the example first set by neighboring Vermont just eight years ago, New Hampshire joined the ranks of civil union states. Almost no one rose to object.

Connecticut quietly opened the doors of marriage to gay couples. Seeing that Massachusetts lives comfortably with gay marriage, Connecticut voters passed on the chance to hold a constitutional convention and fight over the breakthrough.

An estimated 18,000 gay couples married in California after a landmark ruling. Six million Californians voted in favor of gay people keeping the right to marry. When they failed, the state's top court agreed to hear arguments in favor of nullifying the anti-gay-marriage measure that narrowly passed.

With an increasingly progressive nation watching his every move, the president-elect posted a long gay-friendly "To Do" list on his Website. And nobody blinked.

Never in history have gay Americans been so blessed. So in this season of bounty and conflict, let us pause to give heartfelt thanks.



Deb Price of The Detroit News writes the first nationally syndicated column on gay issues.