They waited almost four decades to make their relationship legal. “When we were finally able to get married, we decided to make our wedding small, intimate and special,” explained Duane about he and his now-husband, Robert Beach-Barrow, who married in Palm Springs, California. While marriage equality in the United States has been a longtime coming, most of us in the LGBT community remain astounded at how quickly the tide has turned in our favor.
While countless individuals and organizations are responsible for the victories thus far, some stand out, including Evan Wolfson, Founder and President of Freedom to Marry, the campaign to win marriage nationwide in the U.S.
As his official bio explains, “In 1983, Evan wrote his Harvard Law School thesis on gay people and the freedom to marry. During the 1990s he served as co-counsel in the historic Hawaii marriage case that launched the ongoing global movement for the freedom to marry, and has participated in numerous gay rights and HIV/AIDS cases.” He is the author of the book, “Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality and Gay People’s Right to Marry”, published by Simon & Schuster in July 2004.
Deservedly, “the National Law Journal in 2000 named Evan one of the most influential lawyers in America. Newsweek/The Daily Beast dubbed Evan ‘the godfather of gay marriage’ and Time Magazine names him one of ‘the 100 most influential people in the world.’ In 2012, Evan received the Barnard Medal of Distinction alongside President Barack Obama.”
The first legal same-sex marriages in the world transpired in the early 2000s. After decades of activism, parliament in The Netherlands took legislative action ruling that “a marriage can be contracted by two people of different or the same sex.” According to Wikipedia, “the law came into effect on 1 April 2001, and on that day four same-sex couples were married by the Mayor of Amsterdam, Job Cohen, who became a registrar specifically to officiate at the weddings.”
But same-sex unions have been sanctioned since ancient times. Wikipedia explains, “At least two of the Roman Emperors were in same-sex unions; and in fact, thirteen out of the first fourteen Roman Emperors held to be bisexual or exclusively homosexual. The first Roman emperor to have married a man was Nero, who is reported to have married two other men on different occasions.”
Back to the future (or at least the present), organizers who have worked on the Freedom to Marry Roadmap to Victory national strategy explain, “our movement has built a critical mass of states and a critical mass of public support to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to bring the country to a national resolution.” Both proponents and opponents of marriage equality believe this will be solved once and for all in 2015—in favor of marriage equality, of course.
Freedom to Marry offers on its website an amazing timeline, with the first U.S. victory taking place May 5, 1993, in which the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled “that denying marriage to same-sex couples violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Hawaii Constitution.”
All of the marriage equality losses are documented on the timeline as well, but as documented, on 17 May 2004, Massachusetts became “the first state in the United States to allow same-sex couples to share in the freedom to marry,” and this was upheld by 75% of the electorate on June 14, 2007. Freedom to Marry continues “to partner with individuals and organizations across the country to end the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage and the protections, responsibilities, and commitment that marriage brings.”
As bigotry continues to be defeated across the land, the Freedom to Marry timeline also reflects that on October 6, 2014, the United States Supreme Court most recently denied “review in five different marriage cases; clearing the way for lower court rulings to stand and same-sex couples to finally have the freedom to marry in Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Indiana and Wisconsin. The decision also paves the path for the freedom to marry in Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming. It was an historic day with the effect of bringing us to 30 states with the freedom to marry and 60% of the population living in a marriage state.”
“The Western world has come a long way in terms of gay rights in the last decade, but it’s not over until we have equal rights for LGBT people all over the world,” explained Euvie Ivanova of Equalli.com. The company has launched a high-end line of gay and lesbian engagement and wedding rings made with rainbow sapphires arranged as a pride flag — born out of a desire to better serve the LGBT community. “We need to keep the conversation going,” added Ivanova.
As for Duane and Robert Beach-Barrow’s long-awaited and-they-lived-happily-ever-after big day, explained Duane, “We contacted Fr. Andrew Green at St. Paul’s Episcopal and reserved the church for the day, our 35th anniversary. Then we scheduled the pre-wedding counseling, skipping the one about family planning. We then went shopping for our wedding outfits—grey slacks, blue shirts, yellow and blue ties, and blue blazers. I ordered two white rose boutonnieres, and two dozen red roses.”
Keeping the romance alive, Duane added, “As a surprise for my husband, I went to Over the Rainbow Bakery and ordered a totally sugar-free chocolate cake with chocolate mousse filling and white frosting. I found two grooms at Jensen’s (a high-end grocery story), and arranged to have the cake delivered to TRIO Restaurant where we were having our wedding dinner—just the two of us. We then proceeded to call and invite 15 guests. It was exactly what we wanted, and for us, perfect.”
LGBT equality advocates throughout the world are coalescing into a global movement, and we’re learning from one another along the way. Ultimately, our success has come for the willingness of individual members of the LGBT community to come out, expressing the truth of our lives to our friends, families and communities, bringing about the greatest change. This collective journey of humanity continues, but thankfully, in the right direction.