Equality earned for all

Equality earned for all

Last Friday started the same as any other day for many people. Everybody went about their normal routines. No one could have ever imagined that this day would go down in history for transforming the way that the United States defines marriage.

On June 26, in a five to four ruling, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that same-sex marriage is constitutional nationwide. Before this ruling, same-sex marriage had been legal in just 36 states. The SCOTUS decision made the United States the 21st country to legalize same-sex marriage.

Justices who voted in favor of same-sex marriage included Sotomayor, Kagan, Gibsburg, Breyer, and Kennedy.

Shortly after the decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy released a statement on the behalf of himself and the other four liberal justices who voted in favor of marriage equality.

“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 they once were.” Their hope, Kennedy wrote, is not to be 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.”

This ruling allows same-sex couples the same legal rights and benefits granted to married heterosexual couples. This includes being able to have their spouse recognized on official documents like birth and death certificates.

News of the SCOTUS decision immediately blew up all over social media under the hashtag #Lovewins, and was met primarily with reactions of joy. Hundreds of supporters instantly covered the area in front of the Supreme Court to celebrate the ruling. Supporters were seen waving rainbow flags and holding  posters bearing the Human Rights Campaign’s equal sign, a symbol that has become well known for representing the gay rights movement.

But it wasn’t just those in Washington who were celebrating this monumental decision.

Kennedy senior Shawn Shaft knew from a young age that he was gay. But Shaft repressed his feelings because he feared what people might think and say about him.

It wasn’t until Shaft was almost 17 that he came out to his grandmother and the rest of his family.

“My grandma is my biggest fan and she encourages me so much,” Shaft said. He came out officially to friends and acquaintances on Nov. 20, 2014. “I remember the exact date.”

“In fact, my entire family, the day I came out, messaged me with complete support. I was scared the complete opposite would happen. My sister even texted me that day and told me something along the lines of ‘you could be purple and have antennas and I would still love you’,” Shaft said. “So to any gay kid in the closet ready to make that big step, just know the reactions you get won’t be as bad as you think. Trust me, it’s worth it.”

Fast forward to the morning of June 26, 2015 — Shaft woke up a half an hour before he was scheduled to work at his job at Starbucks, already full of joy. It just so happened to be the day of Shaft’s 18th birthday.

Shortly after waking, Shaft  checked Twitter and discovered the SCOTUS ruling. “I screamed, got dressed, and had an awkward mix of bawling and uncontrollably smiling on the way to work. Then I walked into Starbucks and yelled “WOOOOO! MARRIAGE EQUALITY.”

Shaft later posted a picture of himself on Instagram, writing “On my 18th birthday, I didn’t get a laptop, or a new car. Instead I got the best gift of all. Today marks the day that I one day get to walk down the aisle with my husband in America anywhere. I woke up this morning expecting another average birthday, but instead people everywhere in America get to experience the wedding they deserve with their loved one. No greater gift can compare.”

President Obama is the only U.S. President in history to publicly support same-sex marriage. On May 9, 2012, during an interview with ABC news, Obama said “I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

He went on to say that he thought about “members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together,” and about “those soldiers or airmen or Marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage.”

While initially this reaction may have shocked those in an older generation, polling has shown that younger Americans have avidly supported same-sex marriage for some time.

The President said denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples ‘doesn’t make sense’ to his daughters. “Frankly, that’s the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective,” President Obama said.

President Obama has remained firm in his viewpoint since he initially addressed the topic and has been a huge advocate in working to get homosexuals the same legal rights as heterosexuals.

Needless to say the Supreme Court’s ruling could not have pleased him more. Later that morning, the President spoke at the White House saying that Americans should be very proud “because small acts of courage slowly made an entire country realize that love is love.”

Many businesses and corporations changed their logos to include rainbow colors in support of the ruling. Some of these included big sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Many well-known national buildings, including the White House and the Empire State building, were also lighted with rainbows colors.

Not everyone was in favor of the ruling. Justice Antonin Scalia criticized the Court’s decision as a “threat to American democracy”.

Chief Justice John Roberts also opposed the decision. “If you are among the many Americans—of whatever sexual orientation—who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.”

Shaft thinks the ruling in favor of same-sex marriage will change the United States for the better. “A week before this ruling, I didn’t think it would be legal for me to me to marry in my home state of Utah until my grandchildren came around,” Shaft said.