June 26, 2013 | by Michael K. Lavers
Same-sex marriage supporters rally in Freedom Plaza
Freedom Plaza, marriage equality, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, Supreme Court, gay news, Washington Blade, Vince Gray

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray at Freedom Plaza. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

More than 200 same-sex marriage supporters gathered at Freedom Plaza in downtown D.C. on Wednesday to celebrate the U.S. Supreme Court rulings that struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8.

“DOMA and Prop 8 are dead in the U.S. of A,” D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said during a rally the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club hosted. “The deep injustices that they perpetrated on loving, committed couples and their families have gone and gone for good.”

The D.C. rally was one of nearly 150 events that took place across the country in celebration of the landmark Supreme Court rulings.

Edith Windsor, who challenged DOMA after she paid $363,000 in federal estate taxes upon the 2009 death of her partner of more than 40 years, Thea Spyer, whom she married in Canada in 2007, spoke at a rally outside the Stonewall Inn in New York City. Same-sex marriage advocates also celebrated the decisions in Boston; Seattle; San Francisco; Chicago; Miami Beach, Fla.; West Hollywood, Calif., and other cities.

Washington National Cathedral in Northwest D.C. hosted a prayer service for LGBT families.

“We are ringing our bells at the cathedral to celebrate the extension of federal marriage equality to all the same-sex couples modeling God’s love in lifelong covenants,” Washington National Cathedral Dean Gary Hall said in a statement after the justices announced their rulings on DOMA and Prop 8. “Our prayers for committed happiness are with them and with all couples who will be joined in matrimony in the years to come, whether at Washington National Cathedral or elsewhere.”

Back at Freedom Plaza, an emotional National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey said the rulings go far beyond same-sex couples and their families.

“It was a victory for the United States of America,” she said.

“Today millions of people who have been in the shadows have gotten the rights and recognition and respect that we should have had years and years and centuries and centuries ago,” American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten added.

D.C. Councilwoman Anita Bonds (D-At-Large) described the decisions to the Washington Blade as “wonderful.”

Christopher Schaffer, vice chair of LGBT Democrats of Virginia, agreed.

“The rulings today on DOMA and Prop 8 are a major step forward for equality in the United States,” he said. “DOMA has been nothing more than the federal government condoning discrimination against LGBT people. And it is our hope that wiping discriminatory laws from our books will set an example for all to follow.”

Freedom Plaza, marriage equality, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, Supreme Court, gay news, Washington Blade

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Even though same-sex marriage supporters celebrated the Supreme Court rulings, they acknowledged many LGBT Americans still lack even the most basic of legal protections in the states in which they live.

Schaffer said gay and lesbian Virginians’ relationships “will continue to be relegated to second class status” in the commonwealth because of the state’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Carey reiterated her support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act; while she, Weingarten and National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling blasted the Supreme Court’s decision on Tuesday that struck down a portion of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“We do not have equality until every single person in these blessed United States has full equality,” Marty Rouse, national field director for the Human Rights Campaign, said.

Ikeita Cantu of McLean, Va., who married Carmen Guzmán in Canada in 2009, echoed this message.

“Today is about equality for all people and so as a woman, as a person of color, as an LGBT American, we’re used to freedom being a very long struggle in this country,” Cantu told the Blade at the end of the rally. “Today is not just about LGBT Americans; it’s about all Americans and we all became that much freer today.”

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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