The Verge basically ground to a halt yesterday morning, as our staff read and reacted to the Supreme Court's historic ruling making gay marriage legal across the United States. We run a news organization, but we're also people — an increasingly diverse group of people that cares deeply about tolerance, inclusivity, and respect.
The Verge basically ground to a halt yesterday morning
That ever-deepening sense of care for one another is perhaps the best consequence of our accelerating culture. We are all more connected now, all more aware of how our individual decisions impact and intersect with the decisions of everyone around us in an endlessly expanding network diagram. The incredible speed at which gay marriage went from a laughable idea to an evil banned across the country to something our citizens overwhelmingly support is testament to that network. Communication changes culture in surprising ways.
I like to remind our staff that The Verge peddles hope — that the promises about the future we make on these pages often come true. Sometimes, like yesterday, those promises come true in spectacular fashion. So I asked the staff for their reactions to this week's ruling, and we've collected them below.
Editor-in-chief, The Verge
If you were born after 1990, it’s easy to feel like the entire marriage equality movement has happened in your lifetime. In 1991, Hawaii’s Supreme Court found the state’s refusal to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples to be discriminatory, launching the wave of legislation and lawsuits that culminated in the US Supreme Court’s affirmation of marriage equality yesterday.
Yesterday belongs to the brave queer people who came together
But 40 years before Hawaii came to its senses, small groups of queer men and women around the country were meeting in secret, under threat of arrest, to discuss their political situation. The Mattachine Society formed in 1950 in Los Angeles with a goal of bringing gay men together to offer emotional support and education about gay culture. The Daughters of Bilitis, founded in 1955 in San Francisco, brought lesbians together and worked to educate one another and the public about female homosexuality.
The road to marriage equality was built by heroes all around the world, and I’m grateful for them all. But for me anyway, yesterday belonged to the brave queer people who came together in the face of near-universal scorn and disgust to begin building an atmosphere of mutual tolerance, acceptance, and love. The equality we will now enjoy forever began with their courage.
I called my partner just before the Supreme Court's ruling was announced. I told her it was going to happen any minute now; our lives were likely about to change. Seconds later, we saw the news. On the phone with her, I cried. We both gained a right yesterday; our love is now on equal footing with everyone else's. That said, the fight isn’t over. It is still incredibly difficult to be a transgender human in this country — especially if that human is a person of color.
This was the freakin' tip-off
People who are transgender face immense economical, political, legal, and social challenges. One in four trans people will lose a job because of who they are. One in five trans people will experience homelessness at some point in their lives. And while they have access to shelters, many are mistreated and misgendered by staff and fellow residents, alike. Health care for trans folk is improving, but only marginally so; many insurers continue to refuse to pay for transition-related care. And transgender individuals who are incarcerated or held in immigration centers have it bad: many trans folk who are incarcerated end up spending months in solitary confinement.
This country is changing rapidly, and I can't express how much that means to me. I feel lucky every day that I get to call this place home. But I can't celebrate this ruling without wishing that America were better still. President Obama said yesterday that this country was now "a little more perfect." It's a nice sentiment — but it feels wrong. The fight isn't over. The LGBTQ community and its allies need to step up their game. This week's ruling wasn't a three-pointer in the final quarter. This was the freakin' tip-off.
It didn't really sink in for me until I got a call from my mom yesterday morning. When she said "Congratulations Honey! I'm so happy!" it felt like a lot more than just a stream of tweets and rainbow GIFs. Of course she was quick to follow up by telling me that now that I could legally marry in all 50 states I had zero excuses for not doing so, and the sooner the better. I'm doing my best, Mom, I promise!
The happiest day of my adult life
After we hung up I began to think about just how long a road this was and how lucky I am to have had so many people fight so hard for so long to get me the same basic rights of anyone else in the Unites States. Growing up in one of the states still steeped in bigotry and inequality, I grew up thinking a day like yesterday couldn't be possible in my future. I can honestly say that yesterday was the happiest day of my adult life. Now if I can just find a way to please my mother, I think we have a real shot at world peace.
There are three things on my mind right now:
What a wild week to descend from Canada’s frozen tundra into The Verge’s New York office for a visit! I’ll have to work with editorial coordination to make sure all future trips coincide with landmark Supreme Court rulings. It’ll be a weird streak to keep alive.
Because I’m still a Canadian resident — Canada legalized same-sex marriage in the summer of 2005, the fourth country to do so — this doesn’t directly impact my life. We still have battles to fight and specific national concerns with which to grapple, but this particular issue was resolved a decade ago and met with its own share of fanfare. With that said, watching my friends and colleagues celebrate yesterday morning as an excited and tangentially affiliated observer has been a purely joyous experience. It’s like the opposite of schadenfreude: pleasure stemming from someone else’s great victory, a completely vicarious kind of joy.
Intolerance can be pernicious and shockingly resilient
And taking a moment for sobriety: intolerance can be pernicious and shockingly resilient, can wriggle into cracks and crevices only to emerge and shatter your day when you least expect it. (You don’t have to be LGBT to be familiar with these specific and terrible qualities, of course.) The right to marry is a hard-earned victory, but it’ll just as quickly become a crutch for people looking to prop up their microaggressions and their casually sinister behaviour. It doesn’t ease the sting of people’s slurs, doesn’t erase strangers’ disgusted faces when I kiss my boyfriend goodbye, doesn’t stop acquaintances from asking when I chose to date men or how much I love shopping and gabbing with my gal pals. It’s going to take more courage and more hard work to eradicate that kind of behavior, and it might not even happen in my lifetime. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take this weekend to celebrate a big step forward.
Last weekend, I attended the wedding of two of my closest friends. It was like any other wedding, with the couple in a white dress and tuxedo — except that five years ago, their marriage would not have been recognized by the state of New York. We still have a long way to go, but in the meantime I’ll be raising a glass with two beautiful brides to the many, many people we have to thank for yesterday.
I’m assuming we’ll hear a lot in the coming weeks about how much social media contributed to making this sweeping change possible. Yesterday was the first time in a long time that I’ve felt any real love for America, and that was largely thanks to social media. Virtually my entire Twitter feed, and the Verge’s entire Twitter audience was an outpouring of love and unbridled excitement about this announcement. It was a distinct joy, curating retweets. It was pretty much an hour-long, nation-wide gigglefest at the expense of bigots.
Hello equality, goodbye monsters!
Tumblr? Forget about it, that place was red, white, and rainbow all over. The best posts are screenshots of "Marry me" texts and "Marry me, also the cat barfed on your side of the bed" texts. Our community there is tops.
I also had the distinct displeasure of deleting upwards of 100 Facebook comments from our posts announcing the news and announcing our new avatar in celebration of marriage equality. It killed my mood for a minute, I can’t lie, but it also gave me a lot of comfort to know that even though I couldn’t do much, I could block approximately 100 speakers-of-hate from commenting on a Verge Facebook post ever again. Hello equality, goodbye monsters! I’m excited to see what other positive change we can push for and then celebrate online together.
As someone who has supported a decision like this for years and considers himself an ally, yesterday's ruling makes me glad. Certainly glad enough that it helps block out the asinine dissenting opinions coming from Justices Scalia and Thomas, but mostly glad that it’s proof that progress is possible. As hard as change is to achieve, it can and does happen.
We’re living in the midst of a culture war being played out in almost every aspect of our lives. To be gay, a woman, a trans person, or a person of color is profoundly hard in America, and our exposure to those problems thanks to media and the internet lays out the tug of war between those pushing us forward and those holding us back. People are dying because of it. The stakes are high, and every bloody news story gives us all the reason in the world to believe that the pendulum may swing back to undue a century’s worth of momentum. Yesterday showed that history is on the side of those fighting for the oppressed, year by year and legislative victory after legislative victory.
History is on the side of those fighting for the oppressed
This is just one moment, though, as powerful and important as it is. Homophobia doesn’t go away with sweeping legal decisions. Watching conservatives tie themselves into knots to characterize the ruling as "judicial tyranny" makes that much clear. America still isn’t free in so many ways. So keep marching and making signs. Keep writing petitions to address every last form of systemic injustice that still makes up the fabric of our society. The fight is more than worth it, no matter how long it takes.
A few months ago, two of my best friends who live in Houston came to New York to tie the knot. It was one of the most touching ceremonies, filled with love, laughter, and Lady Gaga. They then returned to Texas, where their legal marriage suddenly became an unrecognized one.
I'm thrilled that state lines no longer define their love for one another. Now, we all can declare that our love is truly one love.
Not often do we experience history on this scale
Yesterday was a day for celebration. A day to recognize the years of struggle, pain, trying days, and perilous nights the LGBTQ community and its allies have been through to reach this point. Yes, there is much more work to be done, and yes, this is only the beginning. But this is a moment we all should cherish. Embrace it and remember every detail about it. Not often do we experience history on this scale, and less often do we stay in the moment. Let’s enjoy this victory.
While I'm obviously thrilled about yesterday's news, this doesn't mean the fight for equal rights is won. In 29 states, employees aren't protected against discrimination based on sexual orientation. And 32 states don't protect trans people from gender identity discrimination. The majority of states — 33 — don't protect against housing discrimination, either; gay, lesbian, bi and trans people can be evicted from the homes they rent or denied housing altogether. That's to say nothing of how trans inmates are treated in the prison system — denied hormones, housed in the wrong facilities, or otherwise abused and harassed. Yesterday was a landmark victory, and we should have a landmark celebration. Then we should work to make more victories just like it.
This doesn't mean the fight for equal rights is won
As someone who always has been afforded the right to marry, I would like to say this: Marriage has been the most vital experience of my life. The institution has its detractors, but for me, knowing that this union — a union that has brought me closer to the person I love more than anyone else — is finally available to everyone in this country feels momentous. It's something that should be celebrated as loudly, as broadly, and as passionately as one celebrates any single marriage in itself.
Besides the joy of knowing that my gay, lesbian, queer, and bisexual friends are finally getting rights that I can take for granted, my favorite part of yesterday's ruling has been reading the same phrase in statement after statement: "redefining marriage." It's something that you're only supposed to say if you hate the decision, but it rings true to me, because redefining things is the central project of progressive politics.
We are willing to build the world we want
Marriage reform is just the start of LGBT rights, but it says something incredibly important: we are willing to build the world we want. We are willing to take an institution that is rooted in ownership, control, and (literal) patriarchy, and turn it into something that reflects — or at least reflects *more* — love and equality. We aren't beholden to the past, or limited by some fatalistic notion of biological truth. Our only responsibility is to the people around us — and to the ones after us — who will hopefully inherit a better world than the one we got.
We're all just one species living on a rock in space, right?
We see so much news break over Twitter these days that, for a minute, it didn't hit me that we were truly experiencing a milestone moment in our country's history. But the reality quickly swelled my brain. The amount of effort, energy, hope, and loss that went into fixing this one (majorly) broken part of our society is immeasurable. Coupled with my joy was the immediate awareness of the numerous and formidable problems we all face. Still, buried somewhere under the weight of that realization, yesterday's news has planted hope that reminds us how powerful we are when we fight, communicate, and endure together. Real equality may sound impossible, but after yesterday I think I see it out there on the horizon. We're all just one species living on a rock in space, right?
Yesterday I cried in happiness for my friends and my country. Growing up in a conservative Catholic family, the change in America is reflected in my own past. We are all deserving of dignity and compassion, and I am deeply thankful for yesterday's ruling: it is genuine hope for a better future.