By SEAN HOLIHAN & JAMES LEWIS
Last month marked the 45th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Loving v. Virginia, the historic decision striking down the ban on interracial marriage. Today, the LGBT community and their allies continue the fight to strike down similar bans that infringe on the basic rights of personal happiness and liberty.
In May, following many legislative accomplishments for LGBT Americans, President Obama came out in support of marriage equality, a huge victory in the long battle. Following the president’s historic statement, other leaders stood up to echo his voice. A new day had arrived.
For many years, the campaign for marriage equality has harkened back to the civil rights movement. The civil rights campaign had two arms: legal and demonstrative. It was a war waged in segregated courthouses and segregated bus terminals. Each campaign was built on a fundamental belief in either the blind fairness of the American justice system or in the base humanity of all mankind.
Critical civil rights victories were achieved in the courtrooms with landmark decisions such as Brown v. Board and Loving v. Virginia. The 2003 case that struck down sodomy laws, Lawrence v. Texas, will one day be listed as part of our generation’s civil rights victories.
Virginia has historically been the conservative voice, fighting against change to keep the “old ways” alive. However, a shift is growing. Organizations including the Virginia Young Democrats (VAYD) and the entire Democratic Party of Virginia have endorsed marriage equality and called for its addition to the 2012 party platform.
This is no longer the fight of urban liberals from Arlington and Alexandria. The fight has been picked up by welders and ship workers in Newport News, sons and daughters of coal miners in Dickenson County, doctors and nurses in Lynchburg and lawyers and professors in Roanoke.
The VAYD president, Isaac Sarver, told the Blade, “We should not live in a country or Commonwealth that discriminates against someone or limits their rights because of who they are.” Over the years, the VAYD have always strived to take a forward stance on LGBT issues by insisting on the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” demanding an expanded list of protected individuals including gender identity and sexual orientation, and calling for passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
Times are changing and Americans are slowly moving forward on civil rights for all but work remains. This work begs the question, “How do we win in the states?”
We win in the states in courtrooms and by electing progressive open-minded leaders who hold the Constitution of the United States and its goals of “establish justice,” “promote the general welfare,” and “secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our prosperity” to be fundamental to all decisions. Guided by these principles, civil rights for all are ensured.
Sean Holihan is a former president of VAYD and currently works for NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. James Lewis is VAYD’s communications director and a former senior policy analyst at a Washington think tank.