Top Leaderboard, Site wide
Truthdig: Drilling Beneath the Headlines
May 28, 2017 Disclaimer: Please read.

Statements and opinions expressed in articles are those of the authors, not Truthdig. Truthdig takes no responsibility for such statements or opinions.

The Artist as Prophet

Rising Star

Truthdig Bazaar
Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN

Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN

By James Andrew Miller, Tom Shales

more items

Email this item Print this item

Gay Marriage: From Stonewall to Albany

Posted on Jun 27, 2011
AP / Louis Lanzano

Revelers celebrate in front of the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan’s West Village following passage of the bill legalizing same-sex marriage in New York.

By Larry Gross

(Page 2)

Through the 1980s and into the 1990s the religious right wing of the Republican Party fought to repeal the gains of the GLBT movement, labeling them as “special rights” rather than basic civil rights. At the same time, the Democrats, always fearful of being accused of capitulating to “special interests” such as minorities and women, did as little as they could get away with, while still raising money from gay people. After all, the argument always went, the political alternative to the Democrats was worse.

In 1992 an amendment was passed in Colorado that outlawed local anti-discrimination ordinances protecting gay citizens. This was challenged in state courts and ultimately in the U.S. Supreme Court, where the Romer v. Evans decision was the first important victory for GLBT rights in the highest court. This was followed ultimately in 2003 by the landmark Lawrence v. Texas decision (written, like Romer v. Evans, by Justice Anthony Kennedy), which abolished all “sodomy laws” and reversed the odious 1986 Bowers v. Hardwick, which upheld laws criminalizing homosexual acts.

By the early 1990s, the stage was set for campaigns to open some of the most central precincts of society to openly gay people. The 1992 Republican National Convention had been seen by many as excessive in its hostility to gay people, and the election of Bill Clinton as president was seen as heralding a new era of social progress. The GLBT movement pressed its apparent advantage, demanding that gay men and gay women be allowed to serve openly in the military. But GLBT folk, like other progressive groups, were soon to learn how shallow President Clinton’s commitment was, and how weak his resolve in the face of opposition. Thus we entered into the nearly two decades of the farcical and destructive “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

The question of same-sex marriage was raised almost at the start of the post-Stonewall era, in 1970, when two Minnesota law students, Richard Baker and James McConnell, applied for a marriage license. They appealed the denial of the license and their appeal went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case. This case received little attention, and while the issue of marriage equality surfaced from time to time in the next two decades, it was never on the front burner of the movement or the public agenda. Things changed, however, in 1993, on the heels of the “gays in the military” fracas, when the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that the legislature needed to show why same-sex marriage should not be permitted under the state constitution. This decision, presumptively approving same-sex marriage, set off a political and legal struggle. In 1998 a constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage in Hawaii was passed by voters after a campaign heavily financed by the Mormon Church.


Square, Site wide
The Hawaii decision ignited a fire storm on the religious right, as the issue was ideally designed to alarm its constituents. In the next few years, state after state passed constitutional amendments and referendums outlawing same-sex marriage. Referendums against same-sex marriage proved to be a valuable political organizing tool, bringing out the conservative vote in election after election, as the technique spread across the country.

In 1996, at a time when no state permitted same-sex marriage, Republicans in Congress proposed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). This act, passed that same year, enshrines opposition to same-sex marriage in federal law, prohibits the federal government from recognizing such marriages and, in effect, suspends the Constitution’s “full faith and credit” clause that would require states to recognize marriages enacted in other states. Although possibly intended to trap the Democrats in the 1996 elections, the bill passed by a large bipartisan majority and was signed by President Clinton, who made it clear that he did not support marriage equality.

George W. Bush’s presidential victory in 2000 did not put an end to GOP enthusiasm for proposing measures against same-sex marriage, especially as Republicans noted that a lack of political zeal on the religious right had contributed to Bush’s popular vote loss to Al Gore. In 2004, as part of an effort to arouse the party’s religious-right base, the Republican platform included a call for a constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage. At the same time, similar amendments were on the ballot in 11 states (Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon and Utah), and all passed. 

However, there was progress on the marriage equality front, notably the enactment of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts in 2004, followed by Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C. Same-sex marriage was enacted in California in June 2008 but repealed by Proposition 8 that November. A similar pattern occurred in Maine in 2009.

On the legal front, a challenge to California’s Proposition 8 was successful in federal court and the case was expected to go to the Supreme Court, but its progress has been stalled because neither the governor nor the attorney general is willing to defend Prop. 8 in the courts. 

In 1996, then Illinois state Sen. Barack Obama answered a question from a Chicago gay paper, writing that “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.” Twelve years later, however, presidential candidate Obama, speaking at conservative evangelist Rick Warren’s Southern California church, said, “I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. For me as a Christian, it is a sacred union. You know, God is in the mix.”

New and Improved Comments

If you have trouble leaving a comment, review this help page. Still having problems? Let us know. If you find yourself moderated, take a moment to review our comment policy.

Join the conversation

Load Comments

By Ehrenstein, June 29, 2011 at 5:20 pm Link to this comment

No YOu work your brain harder, dear.

Larry brought up “Donal Webster Cor” in his essay. But he didn’t tell the whole story of this gay Jeckyl/Hyde. It’s as relavant now as it was when Sagarin finally unmasked himself. (Go “Google”)

“Legally relevant” inspires only laughter in a gay man like myself. I’m 64 year-old. The better part of those years my very existence was completely ilegal.
Can you wrap your tiny mind around that?

Get back to me if and when you do.

Report this

By Arouete, June 29, 2011 at 4:56 pm Link to this comment

@ yrscrewed, You are totally correct for all the reasons I have said here. I think you are also legally correct about the “forgotten” Ninth Amendment too but sadly it’s a legal dead letter - never been successfully evoked – not ever. Not even once. Perhaps it is time? But no problem, the 1st and 14th will suffice.  Great to see all Americans are not bubblegum chewing legal dunderheads who can so easily have the proverbial wool pulled over their infamous eyes.

@ Ehrenstein. Thanks but the link is too cryptic and too much of a needle in a haystack. What are you trying to say?  A clue please. And you totally miss the very astute point of yrscrewed. Work your brain harder, s/he has something very legally relevant to say. Of course we won but you don’t seem to be able to follow yrscrewed’s point farther then a civic center pigeon can fly.

@ diman, As I and yrscrewed point out there is far more here than can be grasped by one-dimensional a pea-shooter brain.

@ Bruce Bethany: Thanks I truly laughed out loud. Very on point. Whenever I see the bar owners hitting the community for a $5.00 cover (drink not included) to purportedly raise money for AIDS or civil rights I run, do not walk, the other way. All tax free and unaccountable cash of course. Ask for transparency? Show us exactly what you took in and where it went? Fuggetaboutit! Given the damages they have done to this community by exploiting sex and profiting off of bigotry I’d dammed well think they’d cough up a lot more conscience money after all the livers they have rotted. 

The companion piece here is interesting but the bar owners could not hope for better PR shill propaganda. These scumbags are no civil rights heroes. They are no different than the “colonialists” the Black Panthers burned out of the hoods as the community chanted “bury baby burn!” Painting them as civil rights heroes or even sanctuaries makes me want to vomit. Not much has changed since Larry Kramer wrote “Faggots” which is as relevant today as it was 25 years ago.

Report this

By Ehrenstein, June 29, 2011 at 9:56 am Link to this comment

“This has nothing to do with “Civil Rights.”  My concern is with the Bill of Rights not with the right to marry anyone.  Get over it already.”

No, YOU get over it. WE WON—LIVE WITH IT !!!!

Report this

By Ehrenstein, June 29, 2011 at 9:54 am Link to this comment

Nice round-up, Larry. But you forgot to tell the FULL story of “Donald Webster Cory”

Report this
yrscrewed's avatar

By yrscrewed, June 29, 2011 at 8:57 am Link to this comment

All marriage laws by the states were discriminatory, was this bill any better?  All Homosexuals could marry anyone they wanted to in a “Church” same as [what] they called straight.  So Homosexuals are [crooked] and Heterosexuals are [straight], I never got that one but it seems to derogatory toward the Homosexuals.  I don’t know it just seems that way. 

Marriage laws were instituted by the south to prevent inter-racial marriages. Although a Marriage contract is nothing more than a contract.  There were no laws against this particular contract because it could have been done in private with the parties thereto.

So what they have the right to contract!

This has nothing to do with “Civil Rights.”  My concern is with the Bill of Rights not with the right to marry anyone.  Get over it already. 

Besides the 9th Amendment is the one that should protect all the Homosexuals and everyone else.

Report this

By diman, June 29, 2011 at 6:00 am Link to this comment

And who are you kidding people, the bill is not about equality in a broader social sense, it is all about ability to put your spouse on your company’s health insurance plan, so sad that even the most noble and socially just causes fall prey to the realities of the capitalist predatory society.

Report this

By diman, June 29, 2011 at 5:55 am Link to this comment

By RenZo:

“This is but one small step in the fulfillment of real civil rights for Americans. The next steps are food, education and healthcare for all. All… as in Every One.
Don’t stop here”

Actually, no, not the universal health-care, food and education, things that are 100 times more important than two gays getting legally married, the right to adopt children, this is what is going to be next.

Report this

By Bruce Bethany, June 28, 2011 at 5:26 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I was around in the Stonewall era in Greenwich
Village. I’m not gay, but I’d like to set the record
straight. The Stonewall was one of several gay
bars in the area, all owned and run by the
Mafia.The clients of these joints were ripped of
unmercifully, paying double for watered down
booze to have a place to cruise and meet others
of their persuasion. New York laws at the time
prohibited bars from serving gays. I worked in a
Village bar where the police would send an
undercover cop to entrap some guy and then
threaten to close down the bar. The solution? A
heavy payoff to get off the hook. The gay bars
run by the mob were immune because there
was systemic corruption involving the police at
every level. The Stonewall should not be a
symbol of Gay Liberation. It was a ghetto of gay

Report this

By John, June 28, 2011 at 2:29 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

@ Arouete: All well-said.  I totally agree and thanks for the links. This article does fine till he gets to Obama and then we arrive on four flat tires. Then again the name Annenberg was never a name I associated with intellectual integrity or honesty in advertising. Just goes to show that pelf can buy anything.

If saccharine sycophants and pandering pettifogs could fly that ballroom would surely have been an airport.  Pretty disgraceful isn’t it? The ‘states’ rights’ rubbish is right out of the Reagan play book. And still politicians can get away with that crap. That’s what happens when we so slash education we have already dumbed it down.

Unlike the so-called civil rights lawyer Obama I actually practiced law, *in the courts* for decades and you are correct. If any attorney tells you that ‘equal protection’ of the law and ‘fundamental’ rights are matters of ‘states rights’, that such rights may be subject to a vote, or that respect for deeply held religious beliefs are a legitimate reason to abrogate those rights when clerics act in a secular capacity as public officials, then you should know one thing for sure: you are being bamboozled by a fast-talking a shyster and a pettifog. Any attorney who so advises his client arguably commits malpractice and better make sure their E & O insurance is paid up. 

This is Kabuki Theater and I presume Obama would, privately,  have agree with all you and your terrific links have said. He knows perfectly well that this is an issue that SCOTUS will have to decide for ALL states. But when people like him are given an affirmative action leg-up and special access to superior education only to use it to exploit ignorance I find it deeply, deeply, troubling.  It presents serious ethical issues when any attorney makes such statements. Turn your back and RUN (do not walk) the other way. Which is *exactly* what I did. 

His ‘states rights’ rubbish is disgrace to his own mixed race-parents who were married under such Jim Crow laws and had to live in California or Hawaii till Loving flushed the same ‘states rights’ nonsense down the legal toilet where it belongs.

Frankly I thought I was going to vomit.  There he was feeding intellectual and legal rubbish to a room full of “educated” people, many of whom were lawyers or hold themselves out as “advocates” as he sucked out their money, and there was nary a bubble of pretest - not one pathetic whimper. Not even one!

I could not have thought of a better, more prefect example, of the gutless Versailles courtiers of the bankrupt liberal class that Chris Hedges has passionately slammed. I figured if these gutless ‘Gucci-shoed bubble-gum liberals’ (love the choice of words btw!) want to sit there and suck up that kind of despicable legal doggerel then let them. When they are betrayed, they can not cry ‘victim’ but should go off in a corner and lick their self-inflicted wounds.  I was out-the-door.

Report this

By Arouete, June 27, 2011 at 8:42 pm Link to this comment

And I will apologize to you. You did a great job on both articles.

I am just so tired of hearing that same rubbish that should not get past a second year law student. We are now TWO decades into this marriage issue and it is still possible for politicians (so-called ‘civil rights lawyers’ no less!) to get away with cavalierly tossing over the same legal insults.  And NO ONE calls them out! This is thanks to our sycophant “Gucci-shoed” LGBT self-anointed ‘leadership” that have so failed miserably in their duty to educate that they have left us with a loose confederacy of vapid bubble-gum dunces.

As the Bay Area Reporter opined years ago, “If one of Obama’s law students gave his answer on a right to marry hypothetical s/he’d deservedly flunk the exam and might better serve the interests of justice by selling shoes at Macy’s.”

Report this

By Arouete, June 27, 2011 at 8:10 pm Link to this comment

“Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible.”  (Janet Malcolm)

Where does propaganda stop and journalism begin? Again thank you. This is a rather good nutshell summary - until you really blew it. Journalism is more than he said / she said. And this is a LEGAL not a MORAL issue. Can we please talk about the LAW and stop begging the EASY question.

“Obama, ... is unwilling to demonstrate moral leadership. ... he took a “states rights” position on this civil rights issue: “Traditionally marriage has been decided by the states and right now I understand there’s a little debate going on here in New York,” he said to laughter.”

The statement is worthy of outage. If sycophants could fly that room was an airport. Where is the outrage?! Laughter? It should have been ridicule.  This is legal no-brainer. “Traditionally marriage has been decided by the states”? “States rights”? Rubbish!  Claptrap! Balderdash! WHERE ARE THE ACTIVISTS? WHO has the audacity to ask this so called civil rights lawyer what part of Loving v.Virginia he doesn’t get? 

Thanks for the wonderful bibliography and beg-the-question editorial however this is not a question of “moral leadership” but basic law - the man is a so-called civil rights lawyer! This is right from the pen of a “courtier.” (are you reading Chris Hedges?) 

Sorry but here is where you fall down as a journalist. (Are you reading Chris Hedges?!) When are pundits going to do their substantive homework? This argument should not get past second year law student. Why do activists suck up such same tired segregationist garbage and pander to pettifogs? 

See “Untangling Barack Obama’s audacious mumbo jumbo” at This guy got the legal dynamic down rock solid years ago! Never refuted because it’s factually and legally irrefutable.

See also “New York Marriage Equality Law Violates Federal Constitution” at

And see “Mr. President: Just say ‘No!’ to Gay Jim Crow.” at

Where is the outrage? I don’t mean to be disrespectful of your effort but I am sooo tired of smarmy politician pettifogs and vapid propagandists who have nothing of substance to offer but just dishing out and rehashing the sameol sameol.

Again, “Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible.”  (Janet Malcolm)

Report this

By Arouete, June 27, 2011 at 3:34 pm Link to this comment

@ jmunro43, Thanks for the Democracy Now link - I missed it. To answer the question: No, it is not a Sign the GOP Aims to Leverage Gay Support in 2012? As this article at salon points out there is still the same canker in the rose. See “New York Marriage Equality Law Violates Federal Constitution”

Report this

By Arouete, June 27, 2011 at 3:22 pm Link to this comment

An excellent report thanks. Very informative.

See also “New York Marriage Equality Law Violates Federal Constitution” at

A very interesting analysis. Talk about drilling beneath the headlines! The Salon article is the best legal analysis I’ve seen. And no the writer is no relation.

I must say, some of the comments I’ve reviewed in response to this superb Truthdig article are deeply troubling. Of course, only those cowards and bullies assured of anonymity would dare make such scurrilous remarks in a public forum. I suspect even they would be deeply ashamed if their identity became known.  Such trolls are like cockroaches: shine a light on them and they scurry and hide under the toilet from whence they came. Of course, this is the problem with the First Amendment: we must all tolerate a lot of excrement.

Report this

By Paul, June 27, 2011 at 2:53 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thanks Mr. Gross for an excellent report.

I must say, some of the depraved responses are rather unsettling.

But there is another dynamic here that readers might want to consider and this writer’s analysis really blew me away. See “New York Marriage Equality Law Violates Federal Constitution” at

Report this

By John, June 27, 2011 at 2:49 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

@rollzone “i have nothing against f*aggots
having rights, but not at the expense of marriage.”

WOW! I had no idea Truthdig attracts such depraved readers. This bigot with a pea-shooter has the manners of a barn-yard animal and the social skills of Jared Lee Loughner. Really scarry. Let’s hope this guy is on the no fly list. What rock does this creep live under?

Report this
RenZo's avatar

By RenZo, June 27, 2011 at 2:12 pm Link to this comment

@ roll(over)zone (under me, right here)
What does “at the expense of marriage” mean, practically.
Oh…..and has any human ever consented (without violence ahead of time) to combining DNA with you to produce “a new life that bonds you for life”?
Were you and the human married?
Was a hybrid produced?
Thank you.

Report this

By Stuffed Animal, June 27, 2011 at 12:10 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I wonder why Leftists, who would never dream of calling the movement for African-American Civil Rights “nigger activism”, are so eager to slap the word “queer” on anything involving the Gay Rights movement?  It’s ignorant and offensive.  Larry Gross, and all his Q-word loving colleagues should be ashamed of themselves; they are unwitting (or witting?) tools of the heterosexist status quo.  Like our oppressors, they insist on labeling gender non-conforming people with insulting terminology.  And I’m not just talking about Straight people here: LGBT folk who try to normalize hate speech are no better than the hetero-bigots.

Also, Mr. Gross doesn’t know his Gay (not queer) history!  The LGBT Rights movement was pioneered around the turn of the 20th century in Europe, particularly in Germany.  The first real Gay activist was probably Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, who was later persecuted by Hitler for his advocacy.  Ignorance is definitely not bliss; anybody who writes about the equality struggle should care enough to research its origins.  They should at least care enough to speak of LGBT folk with respect.

Report this
RenZo's avatar

By RenZo, June 27, 2011 at 12:04 pm Link to this comment

I didn’t think ahead when I moved back to Albany, NY seven years ago, but now that I have, I have a reason to stay here. It was never before on my agenda, but I will now consider all reasonable offers of matrimony…..
This is but one small step in the fulfillment of real civil rights for Americans. The next steps are food, education and healthcare for all. All… as in Every One.
Don’t stop here.

Report this

By jmunro43, June 27, 2011 at 10:27 am Link to this comment

This legislation is a definite step forward. How big of a step is now in the hands of
the 44 states that haven’t yet legalized same-sex marriage, but regardless, New
York has done it’s part for now in the fight for equal marriage rights. I don’t know
what will happen now, but Democracy Now! did a better job than I can of
analyzing the political implications of the decision, check it out:

Report this
Right Top, Site wide - Care2
Right Skyscraper, Site Wide
Right Internal Skyscraper, Site wide