Get Engaged: Marriage Equality in the U.S. and International Human Rights

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By Kara Spada, Ohio State University UNA Campus Chapter Leader and UNA-USA Youth Engagement Intern 

On June 26th, 2015 the Supreme Court of the United States made a historic decision. In a close ruling of five to four, U.S. Supreme Court Justices ruled in favor of marriage equality, legalizing equal marriage opportunity for all peoples across the United States. After decades of efforts by the gay community and its supporters, the right to be married for all couples has now become the law of the land!

The marriage equality movement in the United States has been growing for decades, but internationally, equal rights vary by country. Here, we take a look at the movement in the United States and around the globe.

Marriage Equality in the United States

Taking a look into the history of the movement, there only stands about 50 years between the Stonewall riots of ’69 and this summer’s court ruling. The Stonewall riots are widely considered the most important historical event leading to the gay liberation movement and to today’s LGBTQ rights movement. Throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s, the gay community was faced with an anti-homosexual legal system and was often discriminated against by the people of their town and local establishments.  In New York City, a local Mafia owned bar named The Stonewall Inn stood as a regular meeting place for the marginalized of the gay community including transgender people, male prostitutes, drag queens, and homeless youth. The Stonewall riots broke out in response to a police raid gone badly and the community responded with daily protests. The supporters of the community began organizing activist groups focusing on the rights of the gay community, and thus, a movement was born!

In 2015, state laws prohibiting same-sex marriages were challenged by the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case of Obergefell V. Hodges when a same-sex couple from Cincinnati, Ohio filed a lawsuit against Ohio Governor John Kasich, calling the state out for discriminating against same sex couples who had married lawfully outside of Ohio. John Arthur and James Obergefell married in Maryland, but Arthur fell terminally ill after moving to Ohio. The couple fought to allow Obergefell to be registered as Arthur’s living spouse on the death certificate. The Ohio registrar agreed, but the Attorney General’s office continued to defend their ban on same-sex marriage.  

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The case was taken to the U.S. Supreme Court and was ruled in favor of Arthur and Obergefell. From now on, states will be required to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and same-sex marriages shall be legally recognized by the United States. 

The majority voters were Ruth Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan and Anthony Kennedy.

“This ruling is a chance to reinforce our global efforts to recognize and uphold everyone’s right to live with freedom and dignity – a core part of the United Nations Foundation’s work supporting the United Nations. On this historic day, listening to President Obama’s remarks, I was struck by the way the President described this decision as one that sends an important message to the world about ‘dignity.’ As a gay man dedicated to these issues on both a personal and professional front for many years – and helping to lead an organization that supports the UN’s efforts for a free and equal society – ‘dignity’ is a principle that is important on many levels. Supporting the dignity of women and men everywhere should be a core focus of our work to support human rights globally. For me, there were moments when it was impossible to imagine that this kind of recognition could bring dignity to people like me. But today’s decision is also an opportunity to recognize and empower those who are fighting for dignity around the globe.” – Rick Parnell, COO United Nations Foundation.

Equal Rights at the United Nations

In many countries around the world, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are not equal before the law. The United Nations’ Free and Equal campaign is an unprecedented global public education effort to raise awareness of homophobic and transphobic violence and discrimination. Headed by the UN Human Rights Office, Free and Equal is working to improve the rights of all individuals, and they need your help. As a part of GenUN, here are a few ways you can support equality around the world:

1. Sign up to be a UN Free and Equal Equality Champion

2. Spread the global education effort on social media. Ask your chapter members to take “Selfies for Equality” with UN Free and Equal messages, such as those here.

3. Hold a film screening. Check out the LGBTI Film screening here and visit our resource page on hosting a movie screening here.

4. Commit your campus to equality. Lobby your Student Government to pass a resolution supporting the message of UN Free and Equal and spread the world by writing a letter to the editor of your school newspaper.

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