Celebrations replete with rainbow flags and tear-stained cheeks erupted across the country two years ago after a long awaited decision that profoundly impacted the lives of LGBTQ people and the history of the nation.
Today marks the two-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, a landmark case in which the Court guaranteed same-sex couples the right to marry. The case, hailed as a major victory for the gay rights movement, is considered just the beginning of the fight for equality for many LGBTQ advocates.
In the court’s opinion announcement, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy said the plaintiffs sought “equal dignity in the eyes of the law,” a right granted by the Constitution.
“No longer may this liberty be denied,” Kennedy said. “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family.”
In a 5–4 decision, the Court mandated states to recognize marriage between partners of the same sex, dismantling the prohibitions of same-sex marriage in 13 states, including Texas.
Two years after the decision, however, disputes continue to arise between Texas lawmakers and the LGBTQ community, many concerning legislation, such as the so-called “bathroom bill,” introduced during the 85th legislative session.
June is historically recognized as LGBT Pride Month, an annual celebration of the LGBTQ movement to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots, a series of demonstrations in Manhattan after a police raid of a gay club turned violent. President Donald Trump, who has long claimed to be an LGBTQ ally, has not issued a proclamation to acknowledge the tradition.
This has not stopped Austin from observing Pride, however, as the city is hosting their 7th Annual Stonewall Celebration and Rally at the Capitol on Wednesday to speak out against anti-LGBTQ legislation and to honor individuals who helped spark the modern day gay rights movement in June 1969 at the Stonewall Inn.
Casey Butler, chair-elect of the Pride and Equity Faculty Staff Association, said for many LGBTQ students, a city and state’s historical treatment of LGBTQ individuals can be an important factor in deciding what colleges they attend.
“If you were raised in a very conservative environment where these types of identities and experiences are not celebrated, it may seem like UT is a kind of progressive bastion,” Butler said.
“But for a lot of queer and trans people, it can also be a bit of a letdown when you think about the diversity and inclusion efforts at this University.”
In October, the Human Rights Campaign gave Austin a perfect score, the highest rating out of any city in Texas, for its support of the LGBTQ community in their annual Municipal Equality Index, which examines how inclusive municipal laws, policies and services are of the LGBTQ people who live and work in the city, according to the HRC website.
Butler said both the University and Austin still have a lot of work to do before they can lay claim to the attributes of the inclusive, LGBTQ friendly communities they’ve depicted themselves to be.
Journalism senior Sofia Mendiola, an LGBTQ community member, said Pride reminds the community of its history and how, even in the face of adversity, hope is possible for the future.
“Sometimes the world can be a frightful place for someone like me, but the celebrations are a way to realize that no one is alone and we are all here for each other,” Mendiola said.
“Acceptance and love can conquer whatever hatred or discrimination our community faces.”