Global Pride as US legalises gay marriage
As major cities began preparing their Pride celebrations, the US Supreme Court made history by legalising same-sex marriage across the country. What does it mean for the gay rights movement?
Sometimes justice arrives ‘like a thunderbolt’ said President Barack Obama on Friday. As Pride weekend celebrations began in New York, San Francisco and across the Atlantic in London, the US Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal across all 50 of the country’s states.
‘It means everything,’ said Keith Orr, the owner of a prominent gay bar in Michigan on Saturday. ‘Yesterday was the biggest victory I can recall in my lifetime’.
Meanwhile in San Francisco, activist Brian Basinger described a feeling of ‘completion’, admitting that ‘all of this success all at once is pretty overwhelming.’ The campaign for same-sex marriage has been hard fought by LGBT communities for years, and its arrival marks a huge step forward for the gay rights movement.
Amid the celebrations however, jubilant LGBT activists also took time to reflect on the struggles of the past and the fights yet to come. Many have now pointed to protections in housing and employment as the next frontier for the movement, while a temporary pink triangle was erected on the side of San Francisco’s Twin Peaks to commemorate the oppression and homophobia many people still face.
The court ruled 5-4 in favour of guaranteeing same-sex couples’ right to marry, a close decision which serves as a reminder that opinion in the US is still heavily divided. Mike Huckabee, a Republican presidential candidate, said that the court had tried to ‘unwrite the laws of nature’, while another presidential hopeful Rick Perry argued that it should be an issue for states to decide for themselves.
Despite the battles which remain, the feelings at Pride events over the weekend were overwhelmingly feelings of joy, even in London where same-sex marriage is already legal. ‘It’s put everybody in such a great mood,’ said professional dancer Robin Windsor.
The Supreme Court’s ruling is a huge symbolic success for LGBT communities — not just for those it directly affects in America, but for people across the world. When governments recognise equal rights so publicly, they say, it sends a clear message to those who would disagree. It is also a symbol of hope to young people who are still struggling, and a reward to older generations who have fought so hard for so long.
But symbolic acts cannot tell the whole story. Many have compared the gay rights movement to the fight for black civil rights in the US — but no one could look at the recent events in Ferguson, Baltimore and Charleston and say that America’s problem with race ended when its legislation changed. Of course these moments are vitally important, but they must not trick us into acting as though the problem has been solved.
- Is this the biggest victory for the gay rights movement so far?
- Is there a new equal rights movement on the horizon? What do you think it might be?
- Colour in a blank map of the world depending on each country’s same-sex marriage laws. Do any surprise you?
- Class debate: in just one week, the US saw the shooting in Charleston, the confirmation of Obama’s universal healthcare act, and now the legalisation of gay marriage. Which will have the most impact on its future?
Some People Say...
“In a truly equal society, marriage would be abolished altogether.”
What do you think?
Q & A
- Why did it take so long?
- In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the Defence of Marriage Act (Doma) which prevented same-sex marriages in individual states from being recognised at a national level. Massachusetts was the first state to legalise gay marriage in 2003, and Doma was declared unconstitutional in 2011. Before Friday’s decision, same-sex marriage was legal in 37 out of 50 states.
- So we know what might be next in the US — what about the UK?
- England, Scotland and Wales have all legalised gay marriage, so campaigners in the UK have turned their attentions to Northern Ireland. The transgender community has also pointed out that UK law requires people to obtain the consent of their spouse if they wish to legally change their gender. ‘Equal’ marriage is not quite equal yet, they argue.
- US Supreme Court
- The US Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices decide the country’s highest court cases.
- Housing and employment
- In the US, there are currently no nationwide anti-discrimination laws which prevent people from being fired or evicted because of their sexuality or gender identity.
- Pink triangle
- Just as Jewish people had to wear the Star of David as identification in Nazi concentration camps, homosexual men had to wear a pink triangle. It is now used a symbol of commemoration in the gay rights movement.
- Presidential candidate
- Presidential elections will take place on 8 November 2016. Official candidates for president from the Republican and Democratic parties will be chosen in July the same year, but campaigns for hopefuls have already begun.
- Ferguson, Baltimore and Charleston
- Within the last year, riots have broken out in Ferguson and Baltimore to protest against the deaths of young black men who were killed by police officers. In Charleston this month, nine black Americans were murdered in a church which is famous for its place in the civil rights movement.