UC Berkeley students, employees celebrate Supreme Court same-sex marriage ruling

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Ariel Hayat/Senior Staff

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After Friday’s historic Supreme Court ruling that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right, campus and community members celebrated on Sproul Plaza at an event that featured music, giveaways and an open mic.

The event was organized by LavenderCal, a campus organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees. Attendees initially included mainly faculty and staff, but students passing through Sproul joined the celebration, and the group ultimately grew to more than 50 people.

Ron Williams, program director of the campus’s Re-entry Student and Veterans Services, said he was “overjoyed” to join his friends and colleagues in honoring the decision.

“It’s pretty amazing that now we don’t have to call (same-sex marriage) anything other than marriage, which is all that it is,” Williams said.

At the microphone, speakers shared their personal experiences of their journey toward marriage equality. Gar Russell, director of operations at the UC Berkeley School of Law, read a poem he wrote titled “From Sea to Shining Sea: An Evolution.”

“Today, I realized that my marriage to the man I’ve loved for 21 years is now legal from sea to shining sea, and I cried,” he said in front of the crowd. “Let’s all celebrate each other, and not just for our community but for the whole country.”

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The Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges passed with a 5-4 vote and followed significant gains in public approval of same-sex marriage after Massachusetts became the first state to legalize it in 2004. The decision came one day before San Francisco’s annual Pride celebration, which promises to attract thousands to the city.

In the ruling, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority that “in forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. … (The) Constitution grants them that right.” He then went on to explain the series of liberty principles that led to the court’s decision.

Those with differing opinions included Chief Justice John Roberts, who in his dissent criticized the majority ruling for ordering “the transformation of a social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia.”

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While those on Sproul expressed largely celebratory sentiments, professor Davitt Moroney, from the campus’s music department, addressed the discrimination that he still sees many LGBT students face on a daily basis.

“This is still happening here on the Berkeley campus,” he said in a speech at the event. “Let’s remember that the people who are still in those difficult situations need our help.”

Moroney served on the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on the LGBTQ Communities at Cal and said that in his time on campus, he has seen the evolution of campus advocacy for equal rights.

Several people at the event also commented on the work that still needs to be done to address other social injustice problems, such as transgender rights and the Black Lives Matter movement.

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Director of student services in the sociology department Carolyn Clark ended the open mic standing alongside her wife, Mariana Corzo, and saying she sees herself as “standing on the shoulders of so many activists throughout the decades who have fought for what we’ve finally won today.”

Contact Ariel Hayat at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @ArielHayat.