When I moved to Ohio from Kentucky in 1998 to attend college, I never imagined the possibility of marriage equality in all 50 states in my lifetime.
As a kid, I’d often dreamt about a wedding ceremony with my future partner, surrounded by friends and family and legally sanctioned by our government. I wondered who would be my “best man,” who my husband might be and, embarrassing enough, what colors we’d pick for our reception! But it felt like just a childhood dream. That it just wasn’t possible in my lifetime. Not as a gay man.
And then it started. In the spring of 2004, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional under the Massachusetts constitution to allow only opposite-sex couples to marry. The ruling started a conversation. For the first time for so many, people began to talk about gay and lesbian equality, marriage and what it means to be treated fairly under the law.
The road wasn’t smooth. Later that year 13 states, including Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky passed constitutional amendments, barring marriage equality in their respective states. Others followed, including Tennessee. While the conversation had started, we were on the defense, fighting constitutional amendments across the country.
And then the strangest thing happened: more and more people began coming out. Nurses, firefighters, moms, and dads. Regular folks. And people realized marriage equality wasn’t some legal idea or theory. It wasn’t just a political talking point meant to divide us. It wasn’t going to “destroy the sanctity of marriage,” or hurt families, but was about celebrating people we know (Our friends, family, co-workers, neighbors) and their love and commitment for one another.
We began to see a monumental shift in public opinion. The first African American President of the United States came out in support of marriage equality. Then, more and more judges, appointed by both Republican and Democratic Presidents, issued opinions in support marriage equality.
And the tide officially turned. With marriage equality legal in almost 40 of our 50 states, we are on the verge of a historic decision from the United States Supreme Court. Today, I am proud to stand with almost 200 elected official from across the 6th Circuit, gay and straight, in support of full marriage equality, nationwide.
But it is important to understand that our work doesn’t end today and doesn’t end after the court issues a ruling in June.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed, but racism, sexism and bias towards people of different religions and national origins exist every day. The Americans with Disability Act passed in 1990, yet access to buildings is still difficult for people with different abilities.
Our fight for true equality does not stop with laws being passed, judges issuing rulings or politicians getting elected. It will not end until all people are truly treated equally and fairly.
But, given that I will celebrate my 10th year anniversary with my partner Craig on June 12 (several weeks before the Supreme Court’s ruling), I have started thinking about who my best man might be…and what colors we’ll have at our reception.
Chris Seelbach serves on the Cincinnati City Council.