This past Friday, June 26th I was sitting in my office, unable to concentrate on anything and anxiously refreshing my browser every few seconds. I was reading the live feed on SCOTUSblog to see what decisions the Supreme Court was announcing that day and if it would include the Obergfell v. Hodges case on same-sex marriage.
When I saw the words “it’s marriage” appear on the live feed, followed by a short sentence saying that same-sex marriage was now legal across the country, I was stunned. I had gone from nervously trembling with anticipation to being completely still. Even though it was widely speculated that the ruling would come down this way, it was still an incredible moment.
Being that I live and work in Washington, D.C., I was lucky to be able to leave my office and take a cab down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Supreme Court building and join the rally outside. Even though I got there after the decision had been announced, there was still a jubilant crowd. Old and younger, straight and queer, single and married (now in every state), religious and non-theists, we all excitedly celebrated what had up until very recently, seemed unlikely. It was an astonishing opportunity to see a community so diverse in so many ways come together on such an historic day.
What kept coming to the front of my mind, however, was just how momentous this decision was to the people who have been fighting for marriage equality and to end discrimination for decades. It was moving, beyond words, to see people in the crowd on the steps of the Supreme Court who had spent decades fighting for marriage equality and who now saw that come to fruition for the whole country.
I was moved by my friend and her wife whose marriage, while valid in D.C., was ignored each time they went home to visit their family or traveled to any state that didn’t recognize their union. I thought of mentors, past and present, who fought against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” lobbied against the Defense of Marriage Act in the 90’s to no avail, and helped elect LBGT leaders to office. They got the momentum started and they began the work to change the hearts and minds of people across the country.
Coincidentally, New York City Pride fell this past weekend as well and I had made plans several months prior to attend with friends. It was sure to be even more exciting given the recent news, and the festivities didn’t disappoint. Walking by the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan, where the Stonewall Riots took place and started the movement for LGBT rights, the feeling was electric. No less celebratory than the steps of the Supreme Court, and no less historic, this Pride weekend was the first opportunity for the LGBT community to finally celebrate a victory long in the making.
As the saying goes, we stand on the shoulders of giants, and that couldn’t be truer in the fight for marriage equality. For me, this was more than my eventual ability to marry someone I love regardless of sex. This was the righting of a wrong. For no reason other than the timing of when I was born, I have grown up in a world that has become ever increasingly tolerant of the LGBT community. But that wasn’t the case for the generations before who put up with and bravely fought discrimination and exclusion. This decision, coincidentally coming on the heels of Pride Month celebrations, is thanks to the activists who have fought long and hard even when it seemed futile. And while the LGBT community still has significant challenges to overcome, ranging from employment non-discrimination to ending violence against trans people, this major step towards equality is nonetheless cause for celebration and a reason to be proud.
James currently lives in Washington, DC where he works in non-profit fundraising, development and external communications. He has extensive experience in social justice and progressive advocacy including health care accessibility, LGBT electoral politics, and K-12 and higher education. He is a proud alumnus of Arizona State University and enjoys running, crossfit and his monthly gay book club meetings.