By Juan Benn Jr.,
Special to the AFRO
I remember where I was, who I was with, and how hopeful I felt on June 26, 2015– the day the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is protected under the 14th Amendment.
I was a young teen, not old enough to get married, and lived in one of the 13 states that banned same-sex couples from “officializing” their unions, prior to the court’s ruling. Still, I imagined the fit and color of my tuxedo. I knew that I would marry a man, and that he too, would have to decide on a color to wear on our future wedding day.
For years, I took advantage of the fact that I would enjoy this right, while lawmakers across the country wrote bills, in record numbers, to take more away. On June 30, the last Friday of LGBTQ+ pride month, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority sided with a Colorado web designer who refuses to make wedding websites for same-sex couples. Lorie Smith, who is Christian, argued that providing her services to members of the LGBTQ+ community went against her faith and criminalized her under a Colorado public accommodation law that she said infringed upon her first Amendment rights.
Days after the court announced its ruling, new details emerged about the validity of the gay couple cited in the case. Court documents allege that a man named Stewart contacted Smith through her website, asking her to design wedding invitations for him and his fiance, Mike. But the name, phone number, email address and website found in the court filing belonged to a straight, married man, also named Stewart, who was unaware of the case before a journalist called him asking for a comment.
Legal experts say that whether Stewart and Mike are a hypothetical couple has no effect on the soundness of the court’s ruling. Although, it has the potential to create real harm for people across the country, opening the door for more cases of discrimination against members of all marginalized communities.
Eight years ago in 2015, when the Supreme Court granted same-sex couples in all 50 states equal protection under the law, their decision also fell on the last Friday of pride, June 26, 2015. At the time, it felt like we, as a society, were moving forward. Now, it feels like we’re regressing.
I’m in my early 20s and not looking to get married anytime soon. Critics of the fight for marriage equality often point to leaders’ motivations as conformist in nature, and I agree. Marriage equality does not equal liberation for LGBTQ+ Americans. However, we should still be able to dream about that tux, or that dress, and that future partner, and hope that it will, eventually, come true.
Juan Benn Jr. is a passionate writer and advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, based in the D.C. area.