Today is an historic day in America as we took another leap forward towards equality, this time in the form of Marriage Equality and being able to marry the one you love regardless if they happen to be of the same sex. It is a major victory for the human rights of the LGBTQ community across America, Puerto Rico, The US Virgin Islands, and American territories—not just limited to the 50 states.
Although New York State passed the Marriage Equality Act almost exactly 4 years ago, granting same-sex couples the right to marry and the same rights that go along with marriage, it wasn’t until now that the highest court of this nation, The Supreme Court, issued a decision granting marriage equality in our country thus protecting our rights from that act 4 years ago.
The Bronx is home to the highest number of gay and lesbian couples with children in New York City and perhaps in the country thus making this a strong issue for many Bronxites.
So where does The Bronx connection to this historic Supreme Court ruling on Marriage Equality come in?
It comes from our very own homegrown Bronxite, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, born in our borough (of Puerto Rican parents) back on June 25th, 1954, who was of the majority opinion that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right. Sotomayor is a product of The Bronx, its schools, communities and families.
Growing up in the Soundview section of The Bronx, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor attended Blessed Sacrament School and then went on to Cardinal Spellman High School (my alma mater) before embarking on her journey into law starting with Princeton and then on to Yale Law School.
According to Slate, during arguments on the Marriage Equality back in April of this year
“Ginsburg also pressed same-sex marriage opponents to explain how legalizing marriage equality could possibly hurt opposite-sex couples. “You are not taking away anything from heterosexual couples,” she said, when the state permits same-sex marriage. Justice Sonia Sotomayor echoed this point, demanding to know how barring gay couples from marriage could possibly strengthen marriage for opposite-sex couples. “How,” she asked, “does withholding marriage from one group—same-sex couples—increase the value [of marriage] to the other group?” And Justice Stephen Breyer asked why states had any interest in forbidding same-sex marriage, repeatedly noting that marriage is a “fundamental liberty” which “the state offers to almost everyone”—except gay couples.”
In 2013 during California’s Proposition 8 hearings, Sotomayor left an attorney arguing against same-sex marriage “stumped” when she asked:
“Outside of the marriage context, can you think of any other rational basis, reason, for a state using sexual orientation as a factor in denying homosexuals benefits? Or imposing burdens on them? Is there any other decision-making that the government could make — denying them a job, not granting them benefits of some sort, any other decision?”Charles Cooper, the attorney arguing against gay marriage for the state of California, struggled to find a response.
“Your Honor, I cannot,” Cooper said. “I, I do not have, uh, uh, any, uh, anything to offer you in that regard.”
“If they’re a class that makes any other discrimination improper, irrational, then why aren’t we treating them as a class for this one benefit?” Sotomayor then asked.
As an openly gay man born and raised in The Bronx, this is a big and victorious day for me and it is even more special to know that one of the Supreme Court justices who were in the majority opinion that ruled that The Constitution of The United States of America a “nationwide right” to same-sex marriage, came from The Bronx just like me.
Check out our very own Bronxites, Tai and Lola Velez in Target’s Pride video (they show up at 1:05 into the video when they Tai proposed to Lola):
It is also interesting to note that of the 5 Supreme Court Justices who ruled declaring same-sex marriage a constitutional right, 3 are women from New York City. Along with Justice Sotomayor we have Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg of Brooklyn and Justice Elena Kagan of Manhattan.
Now isn’t that special?
Go forth and celebrate your right to marry who you love.
Love is love. It transcends gender, man-made borders, socioeconomic status and all man-made constructs.