“A historic Pride and Fourth of July 2015” in this week’s issue of the MANILA MAIL (July 1-7, 2015; page A5)

Pilipinasblitz Forever
A column by Bles Carmona

For the week of July 1-7, 2015

A historic Pride and Fourth of July 2015

What distinguishes this year’s Pride celebration in the USA from previous ones? Well, this year there is actually something concrete to celebrate: the 5-4 decision of the US Supreme Court declaring that states can no longer ban gay and lesbian couples from marrying. For the LGBT community in their decades-long fight for equal rights without exception, This. Is. Huge.

This year marks the 46th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York which happened on June 28, 1969, in which the gay community spontaneously erupted in violence in response to an early morning police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay enclave in Greenwich Village. In other words, “Stonewall was a riot” – but definitely not the fun kind. For so long, being homosexual was a crime. But I believe that we have come a long way since then.

The same-sex marriage battle began in the early 1990s. The Supreme Court of Hawaii ruled that the state must show a compelling interest in prohibiting same-sex marriage. By Sept. 21, 1996, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) became a federal law, defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages. On the heels of this Act is Proposition 22 in California, approved by a 61 percent majority of voters on March 7, 2000, which says that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid. In defiance of state law, then San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples at City Hall beginning Feb. 12, 2004. This activity was short-lived, since the California Supreme Court ordered San Francisco to stop marrying gay couples on March 11 of that same year. On May 17, 2004, Massachusetts becomes the first state to legalize gay marriage, followed down the years by Connecticut (2008), Iowa (2009), Vermont (2009), and so on down the line, like dominoes on fire!

A federal judge ruled that DOMA, defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman, was unconstitutional on July 8, 2010. By June 25, 2013, the US Supreme Court struck down part of the DOMA of 1996 that denies federal benefits to same-sex couples. The decision did not guarantee a right to same-sex marriage, but allowed couples in states that allow same-sex marriage to receive the same federal benefits as man-woman couples. Then on June 26, 2015, here we are, here we are! In a 5-4 decision, the US Supreme Court rules that the US Constitution guarantees the right for same-sex couples to marry in all 50 states!

So where were you on that historic date, and how did you feel? My gay friend CI told me that she was at home and found out through the breaking news on TV. Her gay friend, L, found out about it via Instagram. My straight friend DL said that he learned of the news when someone PM’d him on Facebook. CI and L thought it was fabulous news and were actually dressed to the nines when they went with me to San Francisco Pride to wave our rainbow flags and radiate our authentic selves. We had so much fun on the sidelines of the parade! DL, being more conservative, said that it sure was a triumph for human rights, but that in the eyes of God, a valid union is only between a man and a woman. No, DL was not on the SF Pride parade with us, of course – but we respect his point of view. Live and let live. Love and let love win the day.

Hot on the high heels of Pride comes USA’s 239th Independence Day on the Fourth of July. Traditionally, we celebrate this occasion with fireworks, picnics, family gatherings, patriotic parades, and of course, shop-till-you-drop binges. My Mom remembers that she and my youngest sister arrived in the US on the eve of the Fourth of July, 1994. The following day, they joined their very first picnic with family and friends. My Mom remembers being awed by the abundance of material goods in America and the generosity of people. She rejoiced at the wide open spaces and the different beauties of the earth. There were places where she felt truly one with nature.

With this latest victory upholding the right of same-sex couples to marry across the United States of America, then this year’s Independence Day celebration will truly be all the more significant. The Declaration of Independence, long ago drafted to declare freedom from the rule of Great Britain, attains a new meaning in relation to the Supreme Court ruling: “They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

I know same-sex couples who are married and living “happily ever after” lives just as in a fairy tale. Personally, I have known A and K since 2008 but they have been together since 1991. They’re both experts in the cultural field. I met them when I joined the cast and crew of Eve Ensler’s “The V Monologues” produced by the Filipina Women’s Network. Also in 2008, I met T, who has two children with her partner. She recently resigned from her job to fully take care of their two very young kids. In the meantime, I have known a doctor-friend who got married to his lawyer-partner last year. My doctor-friend has been voted one of the best SF Bay Area doctors in his field of specialization. These couples and more are all very committed to the improvement of society. They are all productive, contributing positive forces in our environment.
On the Fourth of July, when we watch the fireworks blazing colorful trails across the sky, we are reminded of the rainbow trails of the LBGT movement, giving the meaning of freedom in another dimension. O, di ba lalong masaya?

Find advisor Blesilda44 at KEEN.com, 1-800-ASK-KEEN (1-800-275-5336), extension 05226567 either by phone or chat: Mon-Fri 7-10 pm, Sat-Sun 7-11 pm Pacific. I speak English, Tagalog, and some Spanish. For personal readings (fee required), email me here: blessingsandlight725@gmail.com

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