Fifty days ago Saturday, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that state laws that “exclude same-sex couples from civil marriage on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples” are unconstitutional.
“The Court now holds that same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the court in Obergefell v. Hodges.
On that 50th day since the court’s ruling, civil rights leader Julian Bond died.
Bond, along with his friend John Lewis, have been two of the most outspoken civil rights leaders — back into the 1990s — pushing for equal rights for gay Americans.
Long before former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was saying that gay rights are human rights, Julian Bond, as early as 2007, was telling audiences that gay rights are civil rights.
“When I am asked, ‘Are gay rights civil rights?’ my answer is always, ‘Of course they are.’ ‘Civil rights’ are positive legal prerogatives — the right to equal treatment before the law. These are rights shared by all — there is no one in the United States who does not — or should not — share in these rights,” Bond told an audience in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in April 2007.
Even then — in a country where only one state, Massachusetts, had marriage equality at that time — Bond said of marriage, “Why are we afraid of those who want their loving relationship to have the same benefits of the law’s protections as most others have had since the country was founded?”
Bond lived to see that, for the vast majority of people, the country is no longer afraid. After more than four decades of fighting over the issue — from state courts incredulous that such claims were even being brought to them to hostile federal officials who corresponded with vitriol — the country is a changed one.