CHARLOTTE, N.C. — About 30 community members gathered on Wednesday evening in Uptown Charlotte to celebrate yesterday’s landmark U.S. Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage.
“We’re here today to say that anything is possible in this country and that we have to fight for every single right we have,” organizer Lacey Williams said during the rally.
The rally, planned by the Charlotte Rainbow Action Network for Equality (CRANE), came in response to two rulings activists say will ultimately pave the way toward full marriage equality for same-sex couples nationwide. One ruling struck down a key provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which restricted the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. The other effectively overturned California’s Proposition 8, a 2008 anti-gay constitutional amendment.
[Ed. Note — This writer helped organize the rally on Wednesday and is a co-founder of CRANE.]
Williams said she grew in a small anti-gay town in Florida. In a similarly small town in Vermont, she married her partner last year. The people there, she said, didn’t see gay marriage as a problem.
“Getting married is not a big friggin’ deal, but people in Washington and people in Raleigh and people in hick-towns like where I grew up make it big deal and that is no more. We have to end that,” she said. “We have to end that today and its through our actions that we end those things. We end discrimination by taking back our rights.”
J.R. Joaquin, who served on the planning committee for last year’s Unity Through Community LGBT welcome event for the Democratic National Convention, said Wednesday’s rulings were a watershed.
“I am gay and I have a passion for the cause, this is a very big day for me and a lot of my friends, we have been waiting for quite awhile,” he told The Charlotte Observer.
Williams said the Court’s rulings were a step in the right direction, but stressed that work toward equality is not done.
“I don’t want anybody to be fooled that this is the end, that all of a sudden because a key provision of DOMA was struck down that we can’t still be fired in North Carolina for being gay, that we still can’t be fired for being non-gender-conforming,” she said. “We have a long ways to go before we sleep, but this is a giant leap forward for a little girl in rural Florida who hate who she was. This a leap forward for a little boy in some hick-town in North Carolina who hates who he is. Today, they see us out of the closet, into the streets and know that they don’t have to be ashamed anymore.”
Other celebrations were held elsewhere across Charlotte and the Carolinas. Supporters of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization, gathered for drinks at a celebratory reception at Cathode Azure, a gay bar in South End. In Columbia, SC Equality held a march to the South Carolina State House. In Raleigh, Equality North Carolina convened supporters for an event at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church.
— Jeff Siner of The Charlotte Observer contributed to this report. See a full photo gallery of the rally from him here.