Yesterday at about 5 p.m. in New York City's West Village, a crowd of LGBT men and women and their allies gathered to celebrate the day's historic Supreme Court ruling that defeated a federal law denying recognition for same-sex marriages. The location was itself a historic landmark, the Stonewall Inn in New York's West Village, a bar that became the the flashpoint for the gay rights movement in 1969.
Yesterday during the festivities that drew over 200, 84-year-old widow Edie Windsor, the plaintiff in United States v. Windsor, the case that led to the overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act, spoke to the crowd: "To all of the gay people and their supporters who have cheered me on, thank you, thank you, thank you!"
Her lawsuit arose after her wife Thea Spyer died in 2009. Rather than grant Windsor spousal rights, the federal government failed to recognize her same-sex marriage and denied her spousal benefits including the ability to inherit assets from Spyer without incurring estate taxes. Of the injustice, Windsor said to the crowd, "The woman I had loved and cared for was not my legal spouse but a stranger with no relationship to me."
While yesterday's event attendees recognized the historic nature of the day's ruling, they responded with celebration. Inside the bar, rainbow flags and paper decorations graced the ceiling, drinks were poured, and patrons wore flags with an equal sign emblazoned on them while hanging out with their loved ones.
In the vicinity outside, celebrants were men and women, old and young; some participants brought their flag-holding babies and their rainbow bandanna-donning pups. Dance hits like "Believe" by Cher blared from the loudspeakers.
Omar Sharif Jr., the national spokesperson for GLAAD was standing in front of the Stonewall Inn. He said of the Proposition 8 plaintiffs, "I'm very happy for them. They had to put their love on trial in front of an entire nation. And it's great to see them victorious today."
Cathy Marino-Thomas, 52, the outgoing board president for Marriage Equality USA, also lingered outside the Stonewall Inn. She has been with her partner Sheila for 20 years and, in 2004, the couple got married in Massachusetts. She smiled and said of the day's court ruling, "It's huge! We can now protect our families properly."
Married couple Mary Jo Kennedy and Jo-Ann Shain of Brooklyn were a few yards down at the corner of Stonewall Place and Waverly Place. They had been part of the lawsuit seeking the freedom to marry in New York. Kennedy said, "We got married the first day it was legal in New York. We've been together for 31 years. We raised our child together. Today is a crowning achievement to many people's struggles." She said that they will be attending the Gay Pride celebration this Sunday, "cheering on Edie Windsor."
But, Sharif said, "Today's decision doesn't mean we should be complacent. We have the moral imperative to push on."
The celebrations at Stonewall Inn continued into the night, with the crowds gathered outside swelling to fill the street.