ITHACA, N.Y. — Despite persistent showers, rainbows prevailed on Thursday evening as more than 200 people gathered at The Space at GreenStar to celebrate the Supreme Court’s recent ruling to legalize gay marriage.
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Janet Shortall, who is the Director of Cornell’s Empathy, Assistance, and Referral Service (EARS), said that the rain must be a “cosmic endorsement” of the Supreme Court’s June 26 decision.
The event kicked off with a community dinner featuring food provided by a number of local sponsors. Speeches followed, and at 8 p.m. the dance floor was opened up to all, with Mac McPherson of MacsEvents serving as the DJ. Donations from the event went to help homeless LGBT youth.
“Ithaca is a unique place where the community believes in equal rights and justice,” said Deborah Cipolla-Dennis, one of the people who organized the event. “It doesn’t matter who you are, this decision affects everybody.”
Leah O’Connor, who also organized the event, said that, given the nasty weather, she was “thrilled with the turnout.”
She said that the Human Rights Campaign had declared Thursday a national day of celebration, and that parties like this were being thrown all over the country. “People want to recognize what a momentous occasion this is.”
Among those speaking to the crowd was Michelle Berry, former Tompkins County poet laureate. “To have love passed in shadow is not right,” she said, “it is always wrong.” Berry said of the Supreme Court’s ruling, “It wasn’t time now, it was always time.”
Multiple couples at the event had been members of “Ithaca 50,” a group of 25 gay couples who sued the city and state to legalize gay marriage about 10 years ago. The group took their case all the way to the highest court in New York, the Court of Appeals, where they were denied the right to marry.
However, Chief Judge at the time, Judith Kaye, disagreed with the court’s ruling, and on Thursday, Mariette Geldenhuys, one of the attorneys for that group, read Kaye’s dissenting opinion: “I am confident that future generations will look back on today’s decision as an unfortunate mistake.”
Many of the speakers were in a celebratory mood but also wanted to emphasize that this is not the end of the fight for equal rights.
Kathy Zoner, Cornell’s chief of police, said that she is “painfully aware” of the dangers that LGBT people still face. She acknowledged her children, but chose not to introduce them, saying, “I know my words may carry farther than I intend. My wife and I can defend ourselves, but our children will have to learn to do so.”
Joanne Cipolla-Dennis, who also helped organize the event, said, “You can get married in every state today, and in 27 states you can get fired the next day for saying, ‘I’m a gay American.’”
She also stressed that LGBT people need to keep making their voices heard. “We look at things very differently than our heterosexual counterparts, and we need to have a voice in the media,” she said.
Pat Pryor, chair of the Tompkins County Human Rights Commission, said, as she pointed to the children running around the room, “I’m thrilled to see new, younger activists coming to the forefront of this movement.”
“But,” she continued, “there are many people for whom struggle is still a reality. Today we celebrate; tomorrow, we get back to work.”