Last edited: February 06, 2005

A Gay Pride Day to Remember

New York Daily News, June 29, 2003
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When gays rose up against police during the Stonewall Riots in 1969, they were living in a country that considered them criminals. But when their descendants in the struggle for equal rights march down Fifth Ave. in today’s Gay Pride Parade, they will do so in a nation whose Supreme Court has forcefully ruled that they are “entitled to respect for their private lives.”

In the matter of Lawrence vs. Texas, the justices ruled 6 to 3 Thursday that the sodomy law in Texas, which criminalized consensual sexual activity between homosexuals, was unconstitutional. But the court didn’t leave it at that. In a breathtaking majority opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court overturned its 1986 decision in Bowers vs. Hardwick, which had upheld a similar statute in Georgia, saying that ruling “demeans the lives of homosexual persons.”

The ruling was stunning for another reason: For the first time in history, the rights of gays to live their lives with dignity, free from state persecution and prosecution, was vigorously defended by the nation’s highest court—a conservative one, at that.

Noting that intimate contact is but one expression of a deeper bond between two people, Kennedy wrote, “The state cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime.” He added, “Their right to liberty under the Due Process Clause gives them the full right to engage in their conduct without intervention of the government.”

Not everyone is thrilled. Most notably Justice Antonin Scalia. The man who aspires to be the next chief justice penned a dissenting opinion laden with intolerance. Scalia blasted the majority for eroding moral codes across the country, for imposing its views on the nation, for having “taken sides in the culture war” and for “largely sign[ing] on to the so-called homosexual agenda.”

The retrograde language in Scalia’s opinion reflects a time when gays and lesbians were considered abnormal, a queer oddity, if you will. But society—in the state, the country and the world—has changed and continues to change for the better.

This paper has changed too. Stonewall—the advent of the gay rights movement—was heralded by a then very different Daily News with the July 6, 1969, headline “Homo nest raided, queen bees stinging mad.” The story dripped with the condescension toward homosexuals that was customary for the time—because it reflected the sentiments of much of the city. And America.

Thirty-four years later, the sentiments have matured. And now, with last week’s historic decision, gays and lesbians have won something they always deserved but never expected to get from the Supreme Court: respect.

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