“Excuse us, we’ve both had champagne,” Robert Cammiso laughed, pushing aside the bouquet of balloons in his hand as he leaned in to kiss his partner for a photograph.
“Share this with everyone, because we fucking won!” he shouted from the crowd that had gathered at Stonewall Inn on Friday afternoon to celebrate the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of nationwide gay marriage.
Flags waved and bottles were uncorked at the newly landmarked site of the police raid and uprising that launched the gay rights movement (tomorrow is the 46th anniversary).
Festooned in plastic leis, Mary Jo Kennedy and her partner Jo-Ann Shain stood against the bar’s iconic neon sign. Both were plaintiffs in the historic 2004 New York State case of Fernandez vs. Robles, in which Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit seeking marriage equality for same-sex couples. Although the initial ruling was in their favor, it was later reversed and the case ended up at the High Court, with same-sex marriage remaining taboo until June 2011. “We got married the first day it was legal in New York,” Shain explained tearfully after the last 12 states in the U.S. joined the 38 that had, before Friday, legalized same-sex marriage to some degree.
Although the atmosphere was electric, many in the crowd explain that in spite of the day’s victory, a number of obstacles still lie ahead. “We can’t just assume that we’re finally over the rainbow and that the fight is over,” Matthew Kelley Rose explained. Though not part of the transgender community, he arrived at the bar on Friday adorned in a black satin robe and a pair of six-inch platforms. “It was such a joyous occasion I felt that I just had to walk here in heels,” Rose laughed. His attire was welcomed by the crowd of Stonewall, but he said it drew telling gawks and whispers on his way to the celebration.
For Rose and many others, the Supreme Court’s ruling, although an achievement of greater equality, is but one step of many in the fight for universal rights. Many of these begin in the workplace where dress code and gender demarcated bathrooms continue to cause discomfort for members of the transgender community. While some have resorted to traveling outside of their workplace to use another restroom, others in the worst case simply “hold it.”
On this afternoon, however — with rainbow flags draped over shoulders, limbs, flagpoles and storefronts — the victors lay down their armor for a few hours to pay tribute to this milestone achievement. For many, the ruling was simply about dignity and validation.
“Did you ever think that this would happen in your lifetime?” Kennedy asked her friend Marge Helenchild.
“You know, I sing a song, and it’s about love. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, what you do, what your religion is, what race you are, what sex you are — love who you love,” Helenchild responded. “I’m a 68-year-old woman, and I feel validated today.