Four years ago, when the New York State Legislature voted for marriage equality, I received the news with a mix of joy and sadness, relief and regret. I was so excited that justice, equality, and love won that day – but I missed my partner Tricia terribly; when she died in 1998, marriage was a pipe dream.
And now, it’s here. The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has ruled, in a 5-4 decision, that marriage equality is the law of the land. As Kevin Russell at SCOTUSblog writes,
The majority bases its conclusion that same-sex marriage is a fundamental right on “four principles and traditions”: (1) right to person choice in marriage is “inherent in the concept of individual autonomy”; (2) “two-person union unlike any other in its importance to the committed individuals”; (3) marriage safeguards children and families; (4) marriage is a keystone to our social order.
It is a relief – more so now than in 2011 – less tears of sadness, more tears of relief. I am so thrilled that the hard work of so many people has paid off, that we have swayed not just hearts and minds but the law, and that we ALL can move from state to state and have the same legal rights, statewide and federally.
But this isn’t the end of the road for LGBTQ equality.
Just as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was just one important step toward equality, the Obergefell decision is just one important step toward equality. There’s still so much to do; for example:
- fair housing for LGBTQ people – because some people can be kicked out of their homes.
- anti-discrimination laws in the workplace – because people can still be fired for being gay, even if they are legally married
- acceptance and legal recognition of trans and non-binary gendered people – because the T isn’t there for its good looks
- the court of public opinion – perhaps the hardest battle of all, especially when you consider that not only was the decision 5-4, but that each of the dissenters wrote their own dissenting opinion. There’s a lot of anger and distress here, and that’s just the court.
We know that significant laws and court cases have not stopped racism from thriving. We know that a landmark decision has not stopped the war against women and reproductive rights. So we must brace ourselves for continued homophobia and transphobia – along with the continued racism, bigotry, and misogyny we already work to fight. We must remember the stirring words of Joyce Poley’s song*:
One more step, we will take one more step,
‘til there is peace for us and everyone, we’ll take one more step.
One more word, we will say one more word,
‘til every word is heard by everyone, we’ll say one more word.
One more prayer, we will say one more prayer,
‘til every prayer is shared by everyone, we’ll say one more prayer.
One more song, we will sing one more song,
‘til every song is sung by everyone, we’ll sing one more song.
Let’s take those steps together. In faith, in love, in our call for justice, equality, and the inherent worth and dignity of EVERY SINGLE PERSON.
*Hymn 168 in Singing the Living Tradition