A sea of people at The Grand event center in Long Beach celebrated the United States Supreme Court’s historic ruling Wednesday, June 26 that effectively allows gay couples to lawfully wed in California and assures their marriages will be federally recognized.
The “Victory Reception & Party,” coordinated by The Center Long Beach, Long Beach Pride, Long Beach Lambda, Long Beach Equality, Marriage Equality USA and the Human Rights Campaign, drew hundreds of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ)-rights supporters to the center’s ballroom. The event included music, drinks and a mock-wedding photo booth.
For some attendees, however, the celebration was bittersweet.
Domestic partners Betsy Peterson and Jordana Nichols said they are both excited that they can now legally tie the knot in California. “As soon as we can file a marriage license, we will,” Peterson said. But Nichols added that the fight to make same-sex marriage legal in other states carries on. “I am a little disappointed for the other states, where it’s not legal yet, but we’ll get there,” she said. “I know we will.”
Ron Sylvester, president and chairman of The Center Long Beach, kicked off the event with complimentary Champagne, thanking organizers and supporters, whom he said have helped push for same-sex marriage rights throughout the years.
“We knew that, when we won this fight, the best way to celebrate would be wedding-style,” he said.
Sylvester first gave a toast to the plaintiffs in the case against the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which the Supreme Court struck down this week, declaring the law unconstitutional. “They have brought a victory that we can all celebrate and benefit from,” he said. Sylvester also acknowledged that the high court’s declining to decide the 2008 Proposition 8 case from California essentially allowed same-sex marriages in this state.
While same-sex marriage is currently legal in 13 states and Washington D.C., he said the battle for marriage equality continues until gay couples in all states have the same rights.
“We look forward to the day when loving couples in all 50 states can share these rights with us,” he said.
James Gilliam, deputy executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California who has been unable to marry his partner of 18 years, acknowledged “straight allies” who have helped the cause and said the high court’s ruling will protect the civil rights of everyone.
“Today, the legal system worked for our community,” he said. “Today’s decision will be used to provide new and different rights for new communities going forward. So everyone won today.”
Local city leaders also shared their thoughts on the historic moment.
Long Beach Vice Mayor Robert Garcia gave a toast to the City of Long Beach, which he said is a place that is accepting of all sexual orientations, ages and races. “It feels so good to live in a community that has been so supportive of our community,” he said. “We accept and love everyone.”
Fifth District Long Beach City Councilmember Gerrie Schipske said she’s proud to live in a city that “supports diversity.”
“For those of us, those older lesbians, we did not think this was going to happen in our lifetime, and I want to salute everybody, everyone that worked on this issue, young, old, gay, straight, black, white, Hispanic and Asian,” she said. “It was together that this is the reason we are here tonight.”
Signal Hill Mayor Michael Noll, known as one of the first openly gay elected city officials in the local area, added, “Happy equality to all. This is a big moment in life.”
Porter Gilberg, administrative director of The Center Long Beach, however, added that, while the court’s decision was a victory for same-sex marriage, equal rights are still needed for other discriminated persons, including transgender people.
“Today we move even closer to eradicating homophobia in our communities and in our nation,” she said. “However, we must not forget it is still legal to discriminate against transgender people in housing and employment in 34 states. We must not forget our transgender brothers and sisters, and we must not forget a tremendous amount of work on multiple issues that our LGBTQ community still has ahead of us to achieve social and legal equality.”