In the spring of 1952, Dale Jennings was arrested in Los Angeles’ MacArthur Park for “soliciting”, a crime that essentially boiled down to being a homosexual in public. At the time, it was a widely acceptable practice for “vice detectives” to pose as gay men in common hookup areas to legally entrap a homosexual for their perfectly natural human desire for sex.
The Mattachine Society, the closest thing to an organized gay rights movement at the time, fought Jenning’s charge by using literature to raise awareness about the problem of police entrapment. With a jury deadlocked 11-1 in Jenning’s favor, the judge dismissed the case and the gay rights movement found their first victory.
In the decades since, gay people have crept out of their closets and into the sun. And as their closets opened, so did America’s heart. As gays became brothers and sisters, teachers and neighbors, fathers and mothers, our nation began to change.
Today, over half a century since the charges against Dale Jennings were swept away by a local court in Los Angeles, the final vestige of marital discrimination against all homosexuals has been struck down by the United States Supreme Court in a landmark 5-4 decision. With the penning of Justice Kennedy’s opinion for the majority — joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan — everyone across America now has the right to marry who they love.
No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its
fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.
It has been a long and weary road, and while we rightfully celebrate the present, it would be reckless for us to not turn out attention to our future.
While we have now eliminated hate in our nation’s laws, we now have the daunting task of eliminating it in our nation’s heart.
And while Macklemore was correct in saying that legal equality is a “damn good place to start”, it is indeed only a start.
Now we must finish our journey.
We must finish for the over two million gay youth who reported being bullied because of their sexual orientation last year.
We must finish for the the kids who don’t yet love themselves for their sexual orientation. For those who doubt their inherent goodness.
We must finish for those that feel guilt or shame because of who they are attracted to. For those who suppress, who hide, who live in fear.
For the future, we must finish.