Aug. 28, 1963, was debatably the most significant moment in the civil rights movement. On that day 200,000 people rallied at the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.’s
momentous “I Have a Dream“ united a nation in solidarity against racial inequality. Now, five decades later, Minnesota has become the 12th state to legalize same-sex marriage.
We now have the advantage of seeing the civil rights movement as history. We read about it in textbooks in grade school. Though racism is still an issue, we can trace back hundreds of years of progress.
Today, however, the Twin Cities Pride festival brings in more than 250,000 people each year. The event brings people of all sexual orientations and gender identities together in order to celebrate and proudly display LGBT pride.
The recent similarities between the civil rights and LGBT rights movements are obvious. The LGBT rights movement has devolved to controversial state initiatives and U.S. Supreme Court cases rather than a direct act from Congress. Justice Anthony Kennedy even cited Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 Supreme Court case that invalidated anti-interracial marriage laws, during the United States v. Windsor case on the federal interpretation of marriage.
However, the differences are changing how history will remember the social movement.
While the civil rights movement had its prominent leaders, the LGBT social movement lacks individual figureheads. Though each city or state may have its own politicians championing LGBT rights, the household names of LGBT individuals are still limited to out celebrities.
The Internet, with its billions of tweets and Facebook statuses, is making support or opposition of same-sex rights reach the world in real time. Instead of leaders, organizations like the Human Rights Campaign and its red sign of equality are creating a new paradigm of user-generated grassroots activism.
In August, at least 1,640 same-sex couples applied to be married. We’re seeing progress. Perhaps 50 years from now there will be grade school textbooks and government holidays dedicated to this battle. We’re in the midst of making history; let’s remember this revolution will certainly be televised.