LGBT leaders celebrate historic gay marriage win with an eye on struggles to come

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Today is all about celebration after decades of hard work. But for LGBT activists, there’s still more work to be done.

It’s an incredible, historic day of celebration for the LGBT rights movement. And no one is partying harder than the activists and lawyers who have spent the past several decades working towards marriage equality for same-sex couples.

Camilla Taylor, Marriage Project Director at Lambda Legal, is part of the team representing four couples in the Ohio segment of today’s historic win in Obergefell v. Hodges at the Supreme Court.

“It’s impossible to put our feelings in words right now,” said Taylor on the phone this morning. “We’ve been fighting for this day for decades, in so many courts. All of it was towards achieving this result at the supreme court.”

Today’s SCOTUS ruling is a “complete victory,” said Taylor.

The court issued an opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, stating that not only must states recognize the marriages of same-sex couples that were performed elsewhere, but that same-sex couples have the constitutional right to marriage under the 14th Amendment. 

That means same-sex marriage is now enshrined in the U.S. constitution, and must be accessible to couples in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and all U.S. territories.

“It’s nothing less than the recognition of the common humanity of lesbian and gay people,” Taylor said, explaining that the ruling goes into effect immediately. “Public officials are free to issue licensees today, they don’t have to wait for a mandate. There’s no reason for anyone to wait in complying with the law. It’s a sweeping ruling.”

Such a victory comes after years of hard work for Lambda Legal, which also represented plaintiffs in the Windsor v. United States case that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act.

It’s no coincidence, either, that the Obergefell ruling was issued on June 26, the same exact day that rulings in favor of both Windsor and Lawrence v. Texas—which eradicated anti-sodomy laws used to prosecute gays—were issued by the court.

In addition to June 26 coinciding with national LGBT Pride celebrations, there is special significance to a marriage victory this year. 2015 marks what’s widely recognized as the 50th anniversary of the LGBT rights movement. Though the Stonewall riots are often colloquially referred to as the “birth” of the LGBT rights movement, the very first national gay rights demonstration took place in 1965.

This July 4, a massive 50th anniversay celebration is planned in Philadelphia. Both Jim Obergefell and Edith Windsor will be speaking at the event.

Malcolm Lazin, executive director of the Philadelphia-based Equality Forum that organized the massive event, told the Daily Dot that in 1965, the Eastern Conference of Homophile Organizations (ECHO) brought the first gay rights demonstration to Philadelphia. Every year after that, the organizers held subsequent rallies called “annual reminders.”

“The principal organizers were Barbara Giddings and Frank Kampey, who are seen as the mother and father of the LGBT movement. By 1969, they were up to about 100 people. And then Stonewall occurred,” Lazin said. “They suspended the annual reminder in order to organize a march to commemorate the Stonewall rebellion, which then became the first Pride parade.”

“People aren’t aware of the 1965 event because the LGBT community is the only culture in the world that doesn’t learn its own history in school,” Lazin added.

Equality Forum set up the massive celebration this year not only to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the movement, but also because they were aware a marriage equality win was likely to occur this June.

One theme that is likely to resonate throughout the celebrations this week, though, is the work that still needs to be done in the fight for LGBT equality. While national same-sex marriage is an incredible victory, many U.S. states still legally allow for LGBT people to be fired or refused housing because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

““Today, love prevailed and our nation became a more perfect union by affirming that all people are indeed created equal and justice belongs to everyone,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD, in a statement this morning.  

“With this decision, loving and committed same-sex couples can finally rest knowing their families are protected and their dignity is no longer up for public debate. But as we celebrate this watershed victory for fairness, we are reminded that marriage equality is a benchmark, not a finish line, and our work to bridge the gap to full acceptance for LGBT people continues.”

Photo via Karen/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Mary Emily O'Hara

Mary Emily O'Hara

Mary Emily O'Hara is an LGBTQ reporter. Her work has appeared in Rolling Stone, NBC Out, Daily Dot, Broadly, Vice, the Daily Beast, the Advocate, Huffington Post, DNAinfo, Al Jazeera, and Portland's Pulitzer Prize-winning newsweekly Willamette Week, among other outlets.