Thousands of people came to West Hollywood on June 26 to celebrate expanded rights for the LGBT community.
They came in groups, and they came pushing baby carriages. They came wearing button-down shirts, and they came in rainbow tutus. Some wore wedding rings and stood quietly with their arms around each other, while others roller-skated through the spectators.
What they all had in common: happiness, at least for the moment.
The 5:30 p.m. rally co-sponsored by Congregation Kol Ami at the intersection of San Vicente and Santa Monica boulevards featured L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, among other speakers, and heralded the Supreme Court ruling granting married same-sex couples the same federal benefits as married heterosexual couples, including filing joint tax returns and Social Security benefits for surviving spouses. The courts also upheld the ruling by a lower court deeming Proposition 8, California’s gay marriage ban, unconstitutional.
“I had a lot of anticipation when I woke up,” said Tanya Sussman, who attended the Wednesday night rally.
“Tax season was always a reminder of how much farther we had to go,” she said. “You are always reminded that the law does not see you as the same.”
Still, Sussman said the battle is only partly won when it comes to complete equality for the LGBT community.
“We’re lucky to be in California,” said Sussman, adding that she was “completely overwhelmed” by the ruling.
States that still do not acknowledge same-sex marriage do not have to offer her relationship equal status, even after yesterday’s ruling. Her ultimate goal is equality for the entire United States.
When asked what this has to do with Jewish values, she said, “This is what it’s all about. The Jewish struggle to make things right for everyone, not just Jews.”
Tracy Moore, a member of Beth Chayim Chadashim, said she felt a combination of joy and somber recognition of how much further the country had to go for true equality.
“I felt absolutely ebullient this morning, but the whole thing was mixed, with the way the [Voting Rights Act] was kicked into the rubbish bin yesterday,” Moore said.
“Ebullient” certainly described the scene behind her, where hundreds of Human Rights Campaign flags — sporting pink or yellow equal signs on a red or blue background, respectively — waved as if heralding an army.
“It’s young people whose responsibility it is [now],” Moore said, looking around at the effervescent millennials cheering on the speakers.
“Marriage is not just symbolic, but it is a symbol,” she said, worrying that other urgent causes might not be lucky enough to get the publicity as the marriage equality movement. “There are no catchwords for Social Security or healthcare.”
For one of the younger members in the crowd, Jocelyn Berger, the next step is clear.
“Organize,” she said. “Organize, organize, organize.”
Noting the many organizations that work on marriage equality, such as Courage Campaign, Marriage Equality USA and Truth Wins Out, she emphasized even total marriage equality is not the ultimate goal.
“Beyond marriage, the Employee Non-Discrimination Act is one that is very important,” she said. “This is a symbolic and real victory but [the fight for equality] goes way beyond marriage.”