At the Grammy Awards on Sunday night, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Mary Lambert and Madonna provided the soundtrack, Queen Latifah provided the officiating, and 33 marriages made the evening. The event was somehow more substance than spectacle, despite the politically-charged topic and the fact that it was the Grammy Awards. The couples were not all same-sex couples. They represented a cross-section which cut across racial, age, and gender lines. It served to emphasize the message that these weddings did not represent special privileges for one group or another. It was about love, and commitment, and marriage just being marriage, for whomever enters into the covenant. The moment was moving and memorable, and the Grammy Awards producers orchestrated it in a way that made the message resonate, rather than turning the moment into an opportunity to preach at the audience.
Macklemore is an unlikely ally for the gay community on the face of it. Many performers from his genre have been criticized for lyrics and comments which were perceived as bigoted or anti-gay. The truth is that it makes the point of the message more strongly than any single gay celebrity could possibly do. People sticking to stereotypes of rappers and hip-hop artists as one thing or another are just as guilty of prejudice as those who would throw the country back to the days where gay men and women did not have the right to equal access to employment or housing, never mind marriage. With the simple message of “Same Love,” Macklemore and the organizers of the Grammy Awards made a more powerful statement than any gay activist has in years. Following in the footsteps of artists like Madonna, who shared the stage on Sunday, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis have raised the standard for allies to the gay community with his matter-of-fact statement about marriage equality.
Madonna is forever cemented in the minds of a generation or two of gay men and women as the pre-eminent icon of support for the gay community. In an era where marriage wasn’t even on the table yet, Madonna was an outspoken and visible advocate. The issues that were being faced at the time were more centered on making the right to keep jobs or find a place to live without being discriminated against a legal standard. It is a fight that many young gays don’t even remember, though it was not so long ago. Even then, however, it was the powerful acceptance of celebrity allies that had a huge impact on the public consciousness. For those living and fighting in that era, having a star like Madonna treat equality and acceptance as something that ought to be a given fact made more of a difference than anything they could accomplish. As with every struggle for human rights in history, racial, gender equality, sexual orientation, or whatever, allies outside the group make all of the difference.
In a country based on the premise that all men, and women, are created equal, it is strange to think that there are still so many trying to legislate the opposite. That being said, with moments like were presented at the Grammy Awards this weekend, there is still hope for those struggling to see strides in marriage equality made. With allies like Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Queen Latifah, and Madonna visibly supporting their efforts, the struggle appears just a little less impossible to those who have spent their lives advancing the cause that was kicked off at that famous bar called Stonewall.
By Jim Malone