Originally published 06/27/2013
A year ago, if the old Portofino at 206 Thompson Street in Greenwich Village was remembered at all, it would have been as the restaurant where Elaine Kaufman cut her teeth in the early ’60s, before opening her own place uptown.This year, now the Malt House, it is a landmark in American history — minor, to be sure, but a landmark all the same. The case of United States v. Windsor, which culminated on Wednesday when the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, can be traced to an evening in 1963 when Edith S. Windsor met Thea Clara Spyer over dinner at Portofino. After half a lifetime together, they were married in 2007.The rediscovery of Portofino is a reminder that social landmarks don’t make their significance readily apparent. A bit of context is often needed to appreciate the triumphs, disasters and dramas that have played out in these buildings.
Originally published 01/22/2013
In his speech, Obama invoked the history of struggles for equality with a remarkable triptych: Seneca (women’s rights), Selma (black rights), and Stonewall (gay rights). And there has been remarkably little blowback — a sign of how much the country has changed.What many people may not realize is how recent those changes are. Gay rights may be relatively obvious — it’s just 8 years since opposition to gay marriage arguably played a significant role in Bush’s victory. But the big changes on the racial front are also more recent than widely imagined (obligatory disclaimer — yes, there’s a lot of racism remaining, and it can be truly ugly; we’re just talking about relative changes)....