Leave No One Behind: Gay Marriage, Obergefell v. Hodges and the March Forward

Participants march in Chicago’s 2014 Dyke March. Organizers of the annual event work to create a space that is radical, inclusive, and safe for criminalized individuals. (Photo: Sarah Jane Rhee)Participants march in Chicago’s 2014 Dyke March. Organizers of the annual event work to create a space that is radical, inclusive and safe for criminalized individuals. (Photo: Sarah Jane Rhee)

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I think this excerpt from an exchange with a friend best explains my feelings, as a queer woman of color, about the Supreme Court decision in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges:

“I hope it [marriage] eventually ceases to exist as a legal construct, and that we all have the rights it affords by virtue of our humanity, but today, I’m really glad for my gay friends, and I know you’re not one of those people who would ever stop fighting for those left behind by such victories, and I love you for that.”

But to add to those thoughts…

I appreciate that my friends who will benefit from the decision are not the kind of people who would leave anyone behind, and as much as the exclusionary language SCOTUS opinion offends me, I am happy for those of you who will now have the same rights that I was afforded by virtue of choosing a man as my primary life partner. I’m glad that if you become seriously ill, like I did years ago, you may now be able to seek the benefits of each other’s health insurance – a privilege that literally saved my life. I’m glad that you may get the chance to claim other benefits that have been wrongly channeled toward a select segment of society, and I’m glad that you will be able to put a little more space between yourselves and the dark history, and for some, current realities, of how this country has treated you.

But as we raise a glass to this reduction in social harm, let’s make sure we celebrate this victory by seizing more ground, and challenging each other to fight for those the movement toward mainstream recognition has not benefited. For many, the struggle remains one of life and death, and our humanity demands that any celebration of this moment be part of a march forward – one where we are willing to hold each other accountable in the pursuit of real justice and safety for those who will not benefit from this victory. Communities of color, the trans community, and those who simply don’t fit an increasingly mainstream model of what it means to be gay must not be left behind. We must recognize the ways in which our solidarity has fallen short, with regard to those who experience ableism and criminalization. We must fight to free the imprisoned and demand safe harbor be given to the undocumented. We must demand safety, shelter, and equal recognition for all who are marginalized, because without that mentality, backed by our actions and resources, we cannot say that we stand for freedom, justice or the rights of the oppressed.

Those of us who have attained, or in cases such as mine, have merely been granted certain privileges have a duty to fight for others, and we have a duty to win.

That said, congratulations to you, friends. You have all my love and support as you walk forward and celebrate your love for one another, and I look forward to standing with you as we continue to demand justice for all those who live in struggle.