Marriage equality was a long time coming to the United States, but on June 26, 2015, same-sex couples nationwide won the right to marry. Two years later, LGBTQ citizens are still fighting for full equality — but as the anniversary of this moment in history arrives, with it comes hope.
The Supreme Court decision that turned the tables for LGBTQ Americans was Obergefell v. Hodges, the culmination of six lower-court cases involving more than a dozen same-sex couples. The primary plaintiff, Jim Obergefell, celebrated the victory despite that his husband, John Arthur, died in 2013.
“Today I could not be prouder of my country, more grateful for the memory of my late husband John, and more indebted to the incredible lawyers, advocates and fellow plaintiffs who made this landmark day possible,” Obergefell stated when the decision came. “There is still so much work to do. As long as discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people is tolerated—whether in the seeking of a marriage license, the pursuit of fairness on the job, or the fight for equal treatment at a restaurant or business—we haven’t truly guaranteed equal justice under the law.
As Obergefell foresaw, further battles remain for LGBTQ people to obtain full legal equality. In the United States, six months in 2017, more than 100 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in 29 states. “Religious freedom” bills are the most common, allowing anti-LGBTQ discrimination on the basis of religious beliefs. The transgender community has been particularly targeted, as all North Carolinians know post-HB2 and currently under HB 142.
The fight — and victory — for marriage equality is memorialized in a recent documentary, “Freedom to Marry,” by filmmaker Eddie Rosenstein. The film follows Evan Wolfson, a central campaigner with the nonprofit that the film’s title reiterated.
“Today’s ruling is a transformative triumph decades in the making, a momentous victory for freedom, equality, inclusion, and above all, love,” Wolfson stated on the day of the decision. “Freedom to Marry calls on state officials to swiftly and faithfully implement the Constitution’s command in the remaining 13 states with marriage discrimination, so that all Americans can marry the person they love and build and protect their families, without delay, throughout the land.”
Unbeknownst to Wolfson at the time, even years later some politicians would still fight the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage. As recently as April 2017, North Carolina Republicans introduced a bill to declare the Obergefell decision “null and void.” However, state legislative leaders refused to consider the bill.
Now, 23 countries across the world recognize same-sex marriages. The Netherlands was the pioneer nation that began the movement, legalizing marriage equality in 2001. Most recently, Taiwan became the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage in a Constitutional Court ruling in May 2017.
Change is never a straight line. It fluctuates, with many backwards steps, but over time progress is made. Jim Obergefell believed this, and stood his ground. As the nation celebrates this anniversary, Obergefell’s statement stands:
“Today’s victory proves that anything is possible, and I could not be more hopeful about the capacity of this country to change for the better.”