Rallies and celebrations follow landmark sodomy ruling

BY Advocate.com Editors

June 27 2003 11:00 PM ET

In cities from Florida to Alaska, gay men and lesbians poured into the streets on Thursday to
celebrate the Supreme Court decision striking down the country's sodomy laws. Rallies and parties marked the end of an era of oppression, many said, as they praised the U.S. Supreme Court's 6-3 ruling to strike down a same-sex sodomy law in Texas, effectively eliminating the remaining sodomy laws in 12 other states. At a rally in West Hollywood, Calif., Mayor Jeffrey Prang called it "a landmark" that "essentially said what we have believed all along--that the consensual relations between people in privacy is not the business of the government," reports the Los Angeles Times. "It is monumental," agreed Jon Davidson, an attorney for Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a gay rights advocacy group that represented plaintiffs John Lawrence and Tyron Garner in the case. "There were tears running down my face as I was reading the decision."

In New York City hundreds of people chanting "It's a great day to be gay" celebrated the high court's decision at a rally in the Manhattan neighborhood where gays fought back against a police raid at the Stonewall Inn 34 years ago. "I'm ecstatic. I'm thrilled," said Charley Beal, 45. "It's the first time that the Supreme Court has ever positively voted in favor of gays." Beal, who said he was waving a gay pride flag Thursday for the first time in nine years, said the ruling would help further the move toward legalizing same-sex marriage and would make it easier for gays to adopt children. Lawrence Saltzman, 49, who was wearing a shirt that read "Homo sex is not a crime," said, "What it means today for us is, children growing up today, adolescents and other people in our society, won't be told that people who are not heterosexuals are criminals. It allows gays to look at themselves without criminality."

In San Francisco gay leaders took down the huge rainbow flag that permanently graces the corner of Market and Castro streets and hoisted the Stars and Stripes. Armistead Maupin, who withstood bomb threats and lawsuits when his 1970s Tales of the City novels about San Francisco life aired as a TV movie in 1990, described the moment as "genuinely joyous." As word of the Supreme Court ruling spread, about 300 people jammed the corner of Market and Castro streets to celebrate, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. They listened to a lineup of speakers and marked the occasion with a kiss-in on the corner. Some brought their babies, many walked arm-in-arm, and a few carried signs with such messages as "We won." "We've been together for 13 years--it's about time," said Joe Vassallo, 40, a high-tech worker in San Francisco.

In Chicago ecstatic revelers waved signs and hugged, the Chicago Tribune reports. More than 100 people gathered in a North Halsted Street intersection to celebrate the court's decision. Many called it a turning point for gay civil rights. Illinois has not had a sodomy law since 1962, but many said
Thursday's ruling was an affirmation that affected them personally anyway. "This is music to my ears," said Michael Rudd, a Chicago arts promoter. " I've been a voice for 20 years, and all I've ever wanted was to be heard. My voice is being heard right now."

In Washington, D.C., several hundred revelers gathered at Dupont Circle to celebrate, The Washington Post reports. "At last this is the end of a battle that has gone on for almost half a century," said Frank Kameny, 78, acknowledged by many as the father of the gay rights movement. Kameny sued the federal government--and lost--after he was fired from his job as an astronomer at the Army Map Service in 1957 for being gay. It seemed that almost everyone at the gathering knew Kameny, whose blue suit became increasingly wrinkled as he was enveloped in one hug after another.

In Salt Lake City a boisterous crowd of 200 cheered, hugged, and applauded speakers while gathered on the sunny steps of the state capitol as rainbow flags flew, reports The Salt Lake Tribune. "It's a major political event," said Ernie Hale, standing next to his partner. "I don't normally come to something like this, but it's a big deal. It's a long time coming." Waving a large rainbow flag, Kathy
Worthington of Taylorsville said she has followed the sodomy law debate for years. "This is historic. It's really historic," she said. Worthington--who is planning a trip to Canada next week to marry her partner of 11 years--said the high court's decision will have an immediate effect on the issue of gay clubs in Utah schools. "We won't have legislators saying, 'It's illegal activity,'" she added.

Other rallies included one at City Hall in Houston, where the men at the heart of the case, Lawrence and his partner, Garner, greeted well-wishers and responded to a ruling that stemmed from their arrest for having consensual sex in the privacy of their own home. "We never chose to be public figures or to take on the spotlight," Lawrence said. "We also never thought we could be arrested this way. We are glad this ruling not only lets us get on with our lives but opens the door for all gay people to be treated equally."

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