Rights Leaders Applaud Court Decision
The Trentonian, June
600 Perry St., Trenton, NJ 08602
By Scott Frost, Staff Writer
June 26 will mark a new era in the gay rights movement.
Possibly the biggest national win for gay equality in the
United States ever, yesterday’s 6-3 Supreme Court decision to strike down
bans on sodomy statutes drew glowing reactions from local and national gay
“Glory hallelujah,” Toby Grace, of Trenton, a board
member with the Trenton Gay and Lesbian Civic Association and the editor of
Out in Jersey magazine said. “We felt our time would come.”
Grace, who said he has been fighting the gay rights
battle since the late 1960s, said yesterday’s ruling is something gays and
lesbians have been fighting for since the 1969 Stonewall riot in New York
Deemed the start of the gay rights movement in America,
Grace said it has been a long, strenuous fight for equality ever since the
owners and patrons of the popular Lower East Side gay community rioted over
the treatment by the New York City Police Department.
“If you told me I could live to see this day in 1969
with the Stonewall Riots, I would have said you were crazy,” said Grace, who
attended the historic Union Square March prompted by the riots a few days
following the event. “I never knew it would go this far, because in the
beginning we just wanted to live our lives, wanted people to leave us alone
and to stop beating us up.
“It’s a cornerstone (decision) because now there’s
the idea that we can’t be compared to criminals just because of what we were
born to be.”
Based on a case in Texas where two men were arrested,
fined $200 and spent a night in jail for a misdemeanor sex charge in 1998,
yesterday’s high court ruling struck down a law that made homosexual sexual
activity (sodomy) a crime.
Until yesterday, police in a number of states had the
right to arrest homosexuals and/or heterosexuals engaged in oral or anal sex.
Of the 13 states with sodomy laws, four prohibit oral and
anal sex between same-sex couples and nine ban consensual sodomy for everyone.
“Today the U.S. Supreme Court closed the door on an era
of intolerance and ushered in a new era of respect and equal treatment for gay
Americans,” said Kevin Cathcart, Executive Director of Lambda Legal, a gay
legal organization that fights for gay rights. “This historic civil rights
ruling promises real equality to gay people in our relationships, our families
and our everyday lives.
“This ruling starts an entirely new chapter in our
fight for equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people.”
Although the gay rights fight isn’t over—Vermont is
the only state to legalize same-sex marriages—many feel yesterday’s
decision now changes political history forever—tracing back to founding
fathers’ signing of the Declaration of Independence.
“This is a large step, but only the first step and it
does open the door for other things,” said Elaine McNeely, the founder of
the New Hope Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “But we are not protected under the
Declaration of Independence because ‘All men are created equal.’
“If it would be written again they would say all
people, black, white, male, female, gay or straight would be created equal. We
just want the same rights and freedoms to love who we choose.”
McNeely has been fighting for gay equality in New
Hope—a town known for its prominent gay community—since the early 1990s
and thinks the ultimate win toward gay equality will only come after she could
legally marry her lifemate, Claire.
Since moving from Massachusetts, McNeely worked hard to
get a 1999 law passed in New Hope to protect homosexuals from bias attacks.
She’s questioned public officials’ recent statement
against same-sex marriages.
Citing former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge’s move in
1999 to keep same-sex marriages illegal, U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum’s recent
inflammatory remarks about gays and Antonion Scalia’s protest of
yesterday’s decision, McNeely says fear is the primary motive behind such
“Judges like (Scalia) are worried that we are a threat
to traditional marriages,” McNeely said. “They only look at the sexual
“Heterosexuals don’t have a monopoly on love.”
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