At 3:59:30 pm Friday we began clapping from the podium overlooking the stock exchange – yes! that was ME! in the back on the left! – and at 3:59:45 one of the twelve of us pressed and held a button for 15 seconds that set the bell to clang-clang-clanging to close out the day’s – and the month’s – trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
It was Gay Pride Month, and a group called Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays – P-FLAG – had been invited to ‘Ring the Closing Bell on Homophobia.’
Would that it were that simple. Homophobia, like racism, does not disappear with the passage of a law or the ringing of a bell. Even so, it was a nice milestone in the nation’s journey toward a more perfect union, with all men and women created equal, enjoying their inalienable rights.
The wonderful singer Barbara Cook was on the podium – she has a gay son and is part of P-FLAG’s ‘Stay Close’ campaign (Ben Afleck is another member of that campaign).
Sam Thoron was there. An insurance man. He is President of P-FLAG – it was his finger on the buzzer. Sam’s general attitude toward those who would make life difficult for his daughter: ‘Don’t mess with my kids.’
Walter Schubert was there. His family have been New York Stock Exchange members for three generations and he was the NYSE’s first openly gay member (since joined by traders at Citibank and Goldman Sachs). It was he who had arranged with the President of the New York Stock Exchange for this honor.
Congressman Barney Frank, ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, was there. He is not one for maudlin sentiment, so as the clanging stopped he leaned over to the Exchange President, out there on the podium with us, and said, ‘Let the after-hours trading begin.’
The event, and its swank antecedent lunch at the Downtown Association, were sponsored by, among several others, American Airlines, Chubb, the Citigroup Foundation, Dow, IBM, and Pfizer.
The country’s has come a long way from the days when, with best intentions, our founding fathers reserved voting rights to white . . . male . . . property owners.
Some try to lean against that progress – failing to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act last week, for example, or pushing Constitutional Amendments last month designed to restrict rather than protect or expand individual freedoms.
But they won’t succeed. America is better than that. And it is that fundamental goodness and fairness that we celebrate tomorrow.