WHAT HAPPENED? (1)
"When all Americans are treated as equal, we are all more free," President Barack Obama said after the landmark Supreme Court ruling that said gay marriage is legal nationwide, 5 years ago today.
Though it is bananas that it took until 2015 to legalize gay marriage, the joy and pride of the day cannot be understated. A sea of rainbow flags went up outside of the supreme court, with hundreds of cheering citizens, crying, hugging, calling their families to let them know they could finally get married to the love of their life.
Though Massachusetts had allowed gay marriage since 2004, there was no federal law stating that gay marriage was legal. 14 states were impacted, as their former state bans on gay marriage were overturned with the new ruling.
THE TIMELINE OF GAY MARRIAGE IN THE U.S.
In 1970, a same-sex couple in Minnesota applied for a marriage license. When they were denied, they took their case to the supreme court. 3 years later, Maryland became the first state to legally ban same-sex marriage. (2)
In 1983, the issue of "spousal rights" came up when a lesbian couple was in a car accident, and the un-injured partner (Karen was unable to care for the injured partner (Karen), even though Sharon wanted her love to care for her. Sharon's parents refused Karen input into her care. Karen became a key spokesperson for lesbian and gay couples' rights, and won her case in 1991. (2,3)
In 1984, Berkeley, California became the first to pass a domestic partnership law, and in 1989, California and New York became the first to define same-sex couples as families. (2)
Between then, in 1987, the first mass same-sex wedding ceremony took place in the National Mall, followed by nearly 2000 same-sex marriages. (2)
In 1992, Levi Strauss & Co. in the state of Massachusetts begins to give same-sex employees domestic partner benefits, and in 1993, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that same sex marriages cannot be denied without a compelling reason - which Hawaii legislators responded to by passing an amendment to ban gay marriage in the state. (2)
In 1995, the Utah governor signed a state Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) statute into law, which became federal by President Clinton in 1996. The act defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman, allowing states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages. (2,4)
In 1998, Hawaii became the first state to offer domestic partnership benefits to gay couples, but also in 1998, along with Hawaii, voters approved bans on same-sex marriage. In 1999, Vermont's Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples had to receive the same benefits and protections of any other married couple in the state. In 2000, Nebraska went to the opposite direction, approving a ban on same-sex marriage. In 2002, Nevada did the same. (2)
In 2003, an amendment to the Constitution was proposed by the House of Representatives to define marriage as between one man and one woman, and President Bush states that he wants marriage to be reserved for only heterosexuals. The same year, California's new domestic partnership law passed, granting same-sex partners nearly all of the same rights and responsibilities as spouses in traditional marriages. (2)
In 2004, Massachusetts made history by being the first state to legalize gay marriage. The same year, in San Francisco, New Mexico and Portland, Oregon began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, as their laws did not mention gender specifically. Oregon decided to halt all marriages until the state decided who is and isn't allowed to marry. California ultimately decided to void same sex marriages, and Missouri voted to ban it. (2)
In 2005, a New York state judge called the ban on same-sex marriage illegal, and California continued to try to pass laws legalizing gay marriage, but it continued to be vetoed. Connecticut became the second state to approve same-sex marriage in 2008.. Also in 2008, California's struggles continued when the Supreme Court overturned the ban on gay marriage, but voters still approved a constitutional ban on the act, along with Florida and Arizona voters. (2)
In 2009, Iowa became the 3rd state to legalize same-sex marriage, and Vermont became the first to legalize gay marriage by legislative means, followed closely behind by New Hampshire and Washington D.C in 2010. (2,5)
In 2011, President Obama declared DOMA unconstitutional, and the same year, New York legalized same-sex marriage. (2)
In 2012, gay marriage was legalized in Washington, Maine. In 2013, Indiana, Maryland, California, Delaware, Minnesota, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Illinois, Hawaii, New Mexico, and Utah followed suit. (2,5)
Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Colorado, Nevada, West Virginia, North Carolina, Alaska, Idaho, Arizona, Wyoming, Montana, Kansas, and South Carolina legalized same-sex marriage in 2014. (2,5)
In January of 2015, Florida became the last state to legalize gay marriage before the federal law passed in June of the same year. (2,5)
And on June 26, 2015, same-sex marriage was made legal in all 50 states. After the legalization of same-sex marriage in Florida in January, 14 states still had not legalized gay marriage: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas. (1)
AFTER THE RULING
For so long, states, politicians and people asked why gay people can't just be happy living together or being in relationships that aren't necessarily marriage, as marriage should be reserved for heterosexual couples. But the real question is... why should they have to? They aren't asking for more than straight couples have, they are just asking for the same rights.
The case won 5-4, passing by just 1 vote. Chief Justice Roberts voted against the ruling, believing that same-sex marriage bans were not in violation of the Constitution. He wanted to uphold and traditional definition of marriage, and stated that marriage was for successful childrearing, and intended to be between 1 man and 1 woman. Justice Antonin Scalia said that banning gay marriage bans robs the people of the "freedom to govern themselves", Justice Clarence Thomas argued that legalizing gay marriage was akin to "roaming at large in the constitutional field guided only by their personal views" and argued that same-sex couples' dignity cannot be defined by law, and Justice Samuel Alito also argued about child bearing, and believed the majority opinion would be used to label those opposing it as bigots. (6)
But despite some opposition from Republican politicians, it won. And it matters because equality matters. Having different rights from someone else just because of who you love is discrimination. Obergefell, the plaintiff in the case that ultimately lead to the ruling, said, "Today's ruling from the Supreme Court affirms what millions across the country already know to be true in our hearts: that our love is equal." (6)
We cannot say we live in a country that values liberty and justice for all if we only provide that liberty and justice for those who's beliefs align with ours. For the Christians, we cannot believe that God made and loves everybody equally, and still believe that He would approve of providing different rights based on one aspect of their lives. Ultimately, our country was founded on separation of Church and State. Beyond believing homosexuality is a sin, what argument is there to believe gay people should not be given the same rights as everybody else?
After the ruling, Barack Obama praised the decision as a "victory for America" and illuminated the white house in rainbow colors. (6)
Thousands of couples who had been waiting for years to marry got their marriage licenses upon the legalization. People who had lived through the Stonewall Riots, who had fought through extreme abuse and discrimination because of their sexual orientation got the good news that their fight was worth it. And people who struggled with their identities, believing themselves to be different or wrong because of who they loved got the affirmation that their love was, legally, created equal.
June 26, 2015 was a good day. A day full of hugs and kisses and marriage and love and joy and pride and rainbows and equality. A day where the hate didn't matter as much. A day where all of the bullying and hardships began to feel worth it. A day where the law affirmed that gay people deserved the right to love and marry just as straight people do.
This wasn't and isn't the end of discrimination against same-sex people and couples, of course. There are still people who believe it is wrong and outwardly speak out against gay people and gay marriage, including politicians and people who hold power. There are still companies who refuse to provide service to people based on their sexual orientation. And even today, there are conversations about refusing potential adoptive couples on the basis of who they love.
The fight is not over. Gay people still need to fight to be recognized as equals in so many aspects of their lives, and still have to deal with discrimination and bullying and hate for simply being who they are. But I think and hope that things are getting better. I think more people are becoming comfortable with who they are, and more allies are standing behind those people, supporting them.
5 years ago today, a huge stride was made on the road to equality for the LGBTQIA+ community. There are still so many strides to go, but they seem possible. I hope they're possible. I hope the road to equality is paved with joy, love, and lots of color.
"Every time someone steps up and says who they are, the world becomes a better, more interesting place." -Captain Holt, Brooklyn Nine-Nine