I can get married?

I'm only 22, so in my mind, marriage is a long way off. It's something that I don't even want to think about at this moment in my life. But last week, when the New York State Assembly voted for a bill that would legalize gay marriage, I caught myself dwelling on the topic.

In high school I never thought it would even be a possibility. A civil union? Sure, but a technicality put in place for tax reasons is not something that one romanticizes as a teen, or really ever.

It's hard to say how fundamentally the legalization of gay marriage can change the game for the LGBT community of my generation, a group of people who -- for the most part -- have not been an active part of "the" community at all.

Growing up in the fairly liberal northeast I never sought the protection or camaraderie of a specifically gay community. In high school or college, I just never felt the need. For most of my adult life I have enjoyed the company of heterosexual males, who never gave my preferences a second thought, so I never did either. The music scene, particularly the jam community, provided an environment that allowed me to feel more comfortable in public with who I am.

I never felt strongly about the issue of gay marriage in the past but perhaps it was because I was too young to understand its implications. Even as recently as a year ago, I would have said education was a higher legislative priority than gay rights. I never really felt discriminated against or as if I were being denied rights. So I thought "what's the big deal?" I figured this was a battle for someone else.

And now, watching the successes of the gay rights activists, I regret not being a part of the push to make it happen. This comes from the efforts of a pervious generation. I get to reap the benefits even though I can't claim any of the credit.

My generation has lived lives unlike any other. Our formative years were shaped by the tragedies of 9/11 and when we finally came of age we elected a biracial president. I think we see this accomplishment as something uniquely our own. On the other hand, the absence of interpersonal prejudices within my generation blinded us to the ongoing injustices of our times.

So as we sit on the precipice of history being made in New York, I want to say "Thank you": Thank you to Governor Andrew Cuomo who made this a priority. Thank you to the Republican state Senators who just said "fuck it" and crossed party and ideological lines to say they'll vote for the bill when it comes to them for a vote. Thank you to the gay rights activists in the 60's who -- in the name of equality -- got their heads smashed in or arrested, or those who endured ridicule and scorn from an unforgiving public, decade after decade.

You have provided a gift that was literally beyond anything I ever imagined.