May 26, 2011
By Stuart Applebaum
Two years ago, i decided to affirm my gay identity within the American labor movement. I wanted to define myself publicly, and not just privately because I felt so strongly about the fight for marriage equality, because I wanted to be engaged in this struggle for equality and justice for all members of the LGBT community.
One of the first people to call me at that time to support my decision was Denis Hughes. And Denis, I want to thank you for that and for your leadership in so many areas, including marriage equality.
And I want to thank, as well, all my sisters and brothers from New York’s labor movement who are here today for your support of marriage equality.
The American labor movement is the natural ally of anybody fighting for human rights and civil rights including the LGBT community because we understand that justice is indivisible. You cannot be for justice for some and not for all. And that includes justice for the LGBT community and economic justice for working people. Working people who are gay or lesbian or bi or transgenders demand to be treated with dignity, justice and respect just like everybody else. And if a loving, committed same sex couple wants to be married, they should not be denied that opportunity. Or the responsibilities, privileges and benefits that ensue.
Supporting marriage equality doesn’t mean you have to marry somebody who is gay. But it does mean that a loving couple regardless of their sexual or gender orientation would be allowed to commit themselves to each other legally.
The long denial of marriage equality has harmed not just individuals, but countless family members, neighbors and co workers who care about the basic rights and well being of others in their lives. While domestic partnership and civil union laws bring some recognition to LGBT working people, there is no substitute for marriage. No legal mechanism for protecting families is as widely accepted or has the same legal precedent and meaning as marriage. Denying access to marriage for any loving, committed couple discriminates against them and relegates them to second class citizenship.
I applaud Governor Cuomo for his leadership on marriage. And, on behalf of my union the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union I call on the state legislature to stand with Governor Cuomo, to stand with New York’s labor movement, to stand with the majority of New Yorkers and enact marriage equality now.
I’m Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.