With the rhetoric of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington still ringing in our ears, this is a good time to talk about how change happens.
Change happens incrementally, until it reaches a certain point and then there is no going back.
That's why it matters far beyond their boundaries when cities recognize basic human rights.
Frankfort on Wednesday became the fifth city in Kentucky (including tiny Vicco in Perry County) to adopt a fairness ordinance. And in Lexington, the council has begun at long last to consider partner benefits for city employees.
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The impact of such decisions was in evidence Tuesday when a gay news blog leaked the information that Walmart — rarely considered a bastion of socially progressive business practices — will soon extend benefits to domestic partners for all of its employees.
After the news broke, Walmart was at pains to say this is "a business decision, not a moral or political decision."
With the U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this year striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, many states were reconsidering their definitions of marriage. For a national company like Walmart, it just made sense to create uniform benefits rather than tailor benefits for each jurisdiction.
In Master of the Senate biographer Robert Caro details the painfully slow movement of civil rights legislation in the Southern-bound U.S. Senate during the decades leading up to the Civil Rights Act of 1960 that Lyndon Johnson manuevered into law.
The fight wasn't over then, and it wasn't over three years later when 250,000 people marched peacefully on Washington to demand equal rights for all Americans. It's not over now.
But we are long past the time when states and regions denied black people the most basic human and civic rights. Also gone is the time when gay citizens were closeted and thus invisible.
While in retrospect movements are remembered through big events — landmark legislation, Supreme Court decisions, marches, even assassinations — they often, almost always, begin with what appear to be modest, even purely symbolic changes.
But at some point, those small changes accumulate into a vast wave that neither government nor business can comfortably ignore.
It may not be a short, fast or unbroken line, but there's a direct connection between Vicco's 334 residents and Walmart's 1.3 million U.S. employees.