On June 26, 2015 the United States Supreme Court ruled, 5-4,in Obergefell v. Hodges, that “same-sex couples have the fundamental right to marry and that states cannot say that marriage is reserved for heterosexual couples”. Justice Anthony Kennedy released a statement regarding the ruling: “Under the Constitution, same-sex couples seek in marriage the same legal treatment as opposite-sex couples, and it would disparage their choices and diminish their personhood to deny them this right”. The ruling directly effected the 14 states that implemented legal bans on same sex marriage. For the first time on our country’s history, members of the LGBT community were able to marry in all 50 states.
This ruling was a major victory for the LGBT community and social movement. Since the development of the founding LGBT civil rights organizations like “The Daughters of Bilitis, the Mattachine Society, and publications supporting gay rights like the groundbreaking magazine One, gay rights activists have built a social movement to push for basic civil rights for employment, education, housing, marriage equality, adoption, etc. Waving the united rainbow flag as a symbol of the LGBT community, these organizations have included men and women from various religious and cultural backgrounds all with the same goal of equality for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgendered individuals. The gay rights movement has tackled issues of discrimination, re-defining criminal acts, and change in law and is responsible for repealing the military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy, classifying murder of gay individual for sexual preference a hate crime, removing homosexuality as a mental illness, etc.
In attempt to achieve equality, over the past 6 decades, the gay rights movement has focused on changing inequality through non-violence. Taking a page from the 1960s civil rights movement, they have advocated for change through sit-ins, and boycotts, and change in policy and law. Utilizing violations of constitutional rights, the LGBT community has engaged in lengthy court battles to change laws on defining sodomy and being homosexual as a criminal act; allowing the gay community the same rights to healthcare without discrimination, and most recently the right to marry. The goal of the gay rights movement has always been clear and simple: equality for members of the gay community to basic civil liberties without fear of repercussion and discrimination. “All of us who are openly gay are living and writing the history of our movement. We are no more – and no less – heroic than the suffragists and abolitionists of the 19th century; and the labor organizers, Freedom Riders, Stonewall demonstrators, and environmentalists of the 20th century. We are ordinary people, living our lives, and trying as civil-rights activist Dorothy Cotton said, to ‘fix what ain’t right’ in our society” – Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin
The fight for LGBT equality is not over. As issues such as the “toilet wars” and right to adopt children as gay couple still wage on, the LGBT rights movement has not completed it’s goal set out decades ago. I think an important lesson this movement has taught is that massive change in society can be made without ensuing violence and force. I would argue that the achievements made would not have been done if threats of violence and force had been utilized. I feel that violence drowns out the larger picture, and takes away from the main goal of equality for everyone regardless of sexual orientation. The focus then becomes how to contain the violence rather than what changes should be made so that violence was never a necessary option.