Keelin Quirk, Sidwell Friends '16







On June 26th, 2015, in a 5-4 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court ruled that the right to marry a person of the same sex is protected by the 14th amendment. Across the country, gay couples and allies alike rejoiced. After being a part of this movement for years, I felt incredible validation for myself and for my mothers who have now been married for 11 years. This ruling was not a given and decades of work were required to reach this point. Gay marriage was illegal in the U.S. until 12 years ago. But thanks to the work of many gay rights organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Freedom to Marry, public support for same sex marriage has rocketed from 37% to 60% in the past decade alone (according to a 2015 Gallup poll).


While the birth of the gay rights movement is usually attributed to the Stonewall riots in 1969, it is actually much older. During World War II, thousands of gay soldiers gathered together. After the war, they collected in cities like San Francisco and New York, which then became centers for the movement. The first gay rights organization, The Mattachine Society, officially started in 1950. It had very little interest in marriage, and instead focused on protection from employment discrimination, police violence and hate crimes. It was not until the AIDS crisis in the 1980s that the problems created by the


"JUSTICE ANTHONY KENNEDY WROTE IN HIS MAJORITY RULING THAT SAME SEX MARRIAGE RIGHTS ARE ABOUT “EQUAL DIGNITY IN THE EYES OF THE LAW,” BUT THEY ARE ALSO ABOUT EQUAL PROTECTION. THIS RULING IS A HUGE STEP FORWARD FOR THE GAY RIGHTS MOVEMENT, BUT IT’S NOT OVER YET. "


absence of rights afforded by marriage came to the forefront. Many hospitals refused to let LGBT+ people visit their sick partners because, unless they were married, they were not considered family. Additionally, if a couple was living together and the person whose name was on the lease died, the other person would be left homeless. Often, the deceased partner’s birth family would take possessions previously owned by the couple. However, states dealt with this issues differently, leading to a patchwork of rulings, thus creating the need for a federal resolution. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in his majority ruling that same sex marriage rights are about “equal dignity in the eyes of the law,” but they are also about equal protection. This ruling is a huge step forward for the gay rights movement, but it’s not over yet.


Following the decision, several states have still refused to give out marriage licenses to same sex couples. Beyond the issue of marriage itself, there is still work to be done for LGBT+ rights. While roughly 9% of teenagers identify as LGBT+ or questioning, a recent study by the Williams Institute found that 40% of homeless children are queer or trans. The majority of these children were kicked out of their homes, and about half report being abused by their families as a result of their sexuality.


Violence against the LGBT+ community is also a serious problem: Psychologist Graciela Balestra says that trans people have a lifespan of 30-32 years, less than half that of the average American. Many LGBT people also experience employment discrimination, as 29 states have no job protection for LGBT employees and 32 states have no protection for trans* employees. Furthermore, the Williams Institute also concluded that gay and lesbian households are twice as likely to live in poverty as families where the parents are in a heterosexual relationship.


Thanks to years of work done by diversity coordinators and gay faculty and staff, Sidwell is a very accepting school. However, Sidwell still is not perfect. While most queer students are treated well, many still do not feel comfortable coming out. Furthermore, there are still almost no accommodations for trans* students, specifically gender neutral bathrooms. It’s up to the allies and friends of queer and questioning students to create a more inclusive community. If you do not think you have an LGBT+ friend, perhaps they may just not be out yet, so think about your language. Be conscious not to say or do something that would make them feel uncomfortable about their sexual identity. Most importantly, support your friends and classmates should they come out to you. Celebrate this victory with them, and join the many more battles, and hopefully victories, to come.