The U.S. Supreme Court in a historic and profound ruling has upheld the civil right of same-sex couples to get married. In a 5-to-4 decision, the Court ruled today that the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires all states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. In addition, the Court ruled that states must recognize legal same-sex marriages performed in other states.
Only a few years ago, it would have been impossible to believe that this monumental moment would occur today.
How could it be that the U.S. Supreme Court, which as recently as 1986 shamefully upheld the reactionary sodomy laws of the state of Georgia (Bowers v. Hardwick), would now echo the demands of a movement that rose up at Stonewall and in other urban centers in the late 1960s? Beyond Stonewall, the modern LGBTQ movement would grow in strength into an unstoppable force that would eventually encompass millions of people in the fight for civil rights and full equality.
This huge victory reflects the growing support for LGBTQ equality that has shifted dramatically over the past few years. After the hateful Proposition 8, the ballot measure aimed at banning same-sex marriage in California, was narrowly approved by the voters in 2008 (eventually overturned in the courts), an already strong LGBTQ movement intensified in the face of full-blown anti-gay bigotry spewed out by the right wing. As the movement continued to surge, public opinion began shifting away from bigotry in favor of LGBTQ rights.
The real legacy leading to this ruling
But the real legacy leading to this court ruling goes back much further than Prop. 8. It goes back all the way to the pioneers of the movement before Stonewall, and the explosion of the modern LGBTQ movement across the country after Stonewall.
There should be no misconception that the Supreme Court and/or the current bourgeois politicians who now claim to support LGBTQ are the ones to be remembered or honored for their actions on this issue. All movements fighting for civil rights and economic justice should see how a movement against centuries of persecution and violence could win such a victory, through resistance and independent struggle.
The LGBTQ movement, massive, vocal , independent and militant, and its growing unity with other struggles, such as women’s rights, voting rights, union rights and the fight against racism and war, is why everything changed and the tables were turned against the anti-bigots hiding behind the cover of religious concerns.
The newly won right to marry, a civil right, will provide opportunities in all areas of progressive struggle against the status quo. As a movement that was built in the streets with protests and mass action, when initially not one bourgeois politician would speak out in favor of simple equality, this victory can bring confidence and renewed energy for all those fighting for justice.
Idea we live in a post anti-gay world is false
The premise already being floated by politicians and others that we now live in a post anti-gay world is false. Discrimination and violence against LGBTQ people are rampant, especially among poor and oppressed working-class LGBTQ youth and elders, trans people and people of color. Such a false idea, that it’s over and done with, is just as absurd as the claim that we now live in a post-racism world. Every day, Black and Latino people are being targeted by the police and right-wing terrorists in shocking numbers. A united fight-back must and will continue to grow.
Recently, Jennicet Gutierrez, a brave undocumented trans woman from Mexico, confronted the now “pro-gay” President Obama at a White House meeting about the gains of the LGBTQ movement. She courageously spoke out about the extreme persecution of undocumented trans women in U.S. immigration detention centers.
“When he [President Obama] started getting into the speech.” she said, “and saying how much progress the LGBTQ community is making, I just couldn’t resist but to think about my conversations with my trans sisters who have been released from detention centers, and the abuse that they’re facing and seeing their faces with so much pain and agony.
“I firmly believe that it was the right thing to do,” Gutiérrez says of speaking out at the White House. “I gave a voice to those people who are suffering and I gave a voice to those who are no longer with us.”
This and countless other issues involving discrimination and violence against trans people, as well as all LGBTQ people, show the need for continued struggle. The new ruling provides a historic and important milestone in the ongoing fight for equality for all.
The lesson of this great victory is clear. Judges don’t change history. Nor do capitalist politicians. They only reflect the truth created by the demands of street-based mass struggle. It’s the people, organized and united, that change history. The time is now to keep up the fight.