In deciding Friday that marriage equality is the law of the land, the Supreme Court justices not only made history, they also showed their respect for it.
This weekend marks the anniversary of three major events in the fight for gay rights: the Stonewall Riots, the court battle against discriminatory sodomy laws and the fight against the Defense of Marriage Act. It's also Pride weekend in New York City and San Francisco, where there's sure to be even more celebration following Friday's ruling.
June 28, 1969, the day of the police raid at Greenwich Village's Stonewall Inn, is considered one of the most significant dates in the history of the gay rights movement. On that night, the popular bar was raided by police, prompting members of the gay community who had complained of regular harassment by the police to fight back. A riot squad was called in to quell the crowd, but at that point public sentiment in the city began to change. The riot was followed by days of protest and a show of unity among New York’s gay community, with Pride being celebrated annually to commemorate the turning point in the LGBT rights movement.
Nearly 34 year later, on June 26, 2003, the Supreme Court ruled on the case of Lawrence v. Texas. Prior to that case, Texas and 12 other states had laws that prohibited sodomy between consenting adults. It stemmed from an incident on September 17, 1998, when a Harris County sheriff received a false gun complaint from a jealous lover and allegedly found two men engaged in anal sex. Unsure about what to charge the men with, the sheriff decided that Texas’ “Homosexual Conduct Law” would be appropriate. Lambda Legal, a gay rights group, used the case to challenge sodomy laws nationwide, with the Supreme Court striking down the law in a 6-3 ruling.
Friday also marks the second anniversary of United States v. Windsor, the Supreme Court case that struck down a major portion of the Defense of Marriage Act. Before the ruling, 12 states already had marriage equality or same-sex civil unions on the books, but Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act federally defined marriage as a union between "one man and one woman." The court struck down that section of the law by a vote of 5-4.
With Friday's ruling that under the 14th Amendment, Americans are free to marry whom they love, the Supreme Court just gave the LGBT community -- and the rest of the country -- a new reason to celebrate the last weekend in June.