Connecting AIDS & Same-Sex Marriage

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In Sunday’s (June 26, 2011) Opinion Page of the New York Times, Frank Bruni celebrates New York’s legalization of same-sex marriage by recounting the story of his own father’s evolution in coming to terms with his son’s sexual orientation. Bruni was the Times’s main restaurant critic until 2009 and last month was named the paper’s first openly gay Op-Ed columnist.

It’s a touching piece as a father-son story. But it’s also moving in the way Bruni makes the connection between the devastation of AIDS (the first study of which was released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 30 years ago this month) and the successful movement for the legalization of same-sex marriage. Bruni stresses that AIDS forced GLBT communities out of the closet. In so doing, it also forced mainstream America to see its gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender citizens, whether family members, neighbors, coworkers, casual acquaintances, or friends. Through this increased visibility has come, over time, a range of medical advancements in the treatment of HIV/AIDS as well as legal protections for GLBT persons.

As I was growing up, my peers and I didn’t even know the words gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. These days, my tween neighbors are telling me all about their gay friends and family members. And teachers and librarians around the country now have a generally good selection of materials, both fiction and nonfiction, for the young GLBT readers they care about, mentor, and serve.

As we publically celebrate Gay Pride this month and, at the same time, recognize New York’s historic embrace of same-sex marriage,  we do so on the shoulders of an epidemic and on those of the brave individuals who came before us.

Check in next week for more from TFCB!

[book covers above: TFCB’s AIDS title in the USA TODAY Health Reports series, left; Same-Sex Marriage, TFCB single title, right]