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Marlo Thomas


Celebrating Gay Pride -- And America

Posted: 06/22/2012 7:57 am

One year ago, one my favorite couples decided to tie the knot. And you know why? Because, at last, they could. Just the day before, Christine and Julia were not permitted to marry in the State of New York. But then on June 24, Governor Andrew Cuomo opened the door to compassion, and signed a historic law legalizing marriage for same-sex couples in New York.

For most of us who live here, it was a day of celebration. Although ours was not the first state to legalize gay marriage (we're the sixth of seven states to do so), we had come a long way. It was here at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village on a warm summer night in 1969 that gay men and women first fought back against the discrimination that had marginalized their lives for so many years. Following a police raid at the Stonewall, riots broke out, and the message from the gay community was loud and clear: Enough.

As we continue to celebrate Gay Pride month, it's important to step back and remember milestones like Stonewall, if only because it's difficult to see history as we live it. Even with same-sex marriage laws on the books in seven American states -- and similar legislation brewing in many others -- we need to be mindful that this landmark moment in our time is not the final destination, but a momentary clearing in the brush as we continue our ongoing journey to a greater democracy.

Unfathomable as it may seem now, it wasn't so long ago that interracial marriage was a criminal offense in this country; anti-miscegenation laws even made sex between consenting members of different races illegal in some places. Those laws were not changed until 1967. And when we look back at those who opposed the change, we wonder what must have been in their hearts. Often the answer is fear.

Will future generations look back at us and wonder what was in our hearts when we denied gays the right to marry for so long? Yes, I'm afraid they will. Thankfully, in our lifetime, we're able to witness one more barrier to freedom being torn down.

When I wrote a letter to President Obama last month, I thanked him for his support of gay marriage, and for helping to fulfill the dream of our Founding Fathers: the right to "the pursuit of happiness." And that dream is not debatable. We can debate business regulations, health care reform, immigration laws. But gay rights are a fundamental human right: the right to live and love.

Here in New York, we have billboards that read, "If you don't like gay marriage, don't get gay married." I love that slogan -- it's clever and it's funny. But it's also pretty clear: There is no threat to traditional marriage here or anywhere, any more than there was from interracial marriage a generation ago. It's simply a question of civil rights. And when the dust finally settles -- and it will -- I hope to see a country where all families are respected and embraced, and all are free to love whom they choose.

We've put together a slide show that recalls some of the more memorable moments from the gay rights movement around the world. When I look at these images, I feel proud of the progress we've made as a country, and look forward to even greater victories. I hope you do, too.

Loading Slideshow...
  • 1969 - The Stonewall Riots

    After enduring ongoing harassment and repeated arrests, the patrons of the Stonewall Inn in New York's Greenwich Village rise up in protest after yet another police raid. The riots that followed garnered national attention and are considered to be one of the primary catalysts that set the gay rights movement in motion.

  • 1970 - The First Gay Pride Parade

    Just one year after the Stonewall riots, the first gay pride parade takes place in New York City. It is deemed Christopher Street Liberation Day, and it is actually more of a protest than a parade with marchers walking from Washington Place in Greenwich Village, up Sixth Avenue to a "Be-In" in Central Park. It is a major social milestone and political statement for its day.

  • 1977 - Harvey Milk Elected

    When openly gay politician Harvey Milk is elected to the San Francisco board of supervisors, he shows what can be achieved by mobilizing the gay community. Tragically, within a year, he and San Francisco mayor George Mosconi are killed by fellow city supervisor Dan White.

  • 1989 - Denmark Enacts Registered Partnerships

    The Scandinavian country of Denmark becomes the first in the world to enact registered partnerships for same-sex couples in 1989. The partnerships grant most of the same rights as marriage.

  • 1993 - Don't Ask, Don't Tell

    On December 21, 1993, Bill Clinton institutes the policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" to prohibit discrimination against or harassment of gay or bisexual service members. However, the policy prohibits any homosexual or bisexual person from disclosing or speaking about their sexual orientation. The policy further states that people who "demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts" are prohibited from serving in the armed forces of the United States.

  • 1996 - The Defense of Marriage Act is Passed

    At a time when it appears Hawaii may be going to legalize same-sex marriage, Congress passes the controversial Defense of Marriage Act which defines marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman. It is signed into law by President Bill Clinton on September 21, 1996.

  • 2001 - Netherlands, Germany and Finland

    The Netherlands becomes the first country in the world to permit same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption rights in 2001. That same year, Germany and Finland allow civil unions for gay couples.

  • 2003 - Belgium Takes Second

    Belgium becomes the second nation in the world to legalize and recognize same-sex marriage in 2003.

  • 2004 - Same-Sex Certificates in San Francisco

    In San Francisco, newly-elected mayor Gavin Newsom issues the first same-sex marriage certificates ever in the United States. The California Supreme Court later nullifies the certificates.

  • 2005 - Spain Legalizes Gay Marriage

    On July 3, 2005, Spain passes legislation legalizing same-sex marriage.

  • 2005 - Canada Follows Suit

    On July 20, 2005, Canada becomes the first country in the Americas to legalize same-sex marriage.

  • 2006 - South Africa Makes History

    In 2006, South Africa becomes the first African nation to legalize same-sex marriages

  • 2008 - California and Connecticut

    In 2008, the Supreme Courts of California and Connecticut both legalize same-sex marriage. However, the following year, the California Supreme Court upholds Proposition 8 defining marriage between a man and a woman, but also rules that previously officiated gay marriages remain valid.

  • 2009 - Iceland Elects an Out Prime Minister

    Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir is elected to the office of Prime Minister of Iceland on February 1, 2009, becoming the world's first openly gay Prime Minister. In June, 2010, Iceland legalizes gay marriage, and Sigurðardóttir marries her longtime partner.

  • 2009 - Norway and Sweden

    In 2009, the neighboring countries of Norway and Sweden both legalize gay marriage.

  • 2010 - Portugal, Iceland and Argentina

    In a single year, the nations of Portugal, Iceland and Argentina all legalize same-sex marriage.

  • 2011 - Don't Ask, Don't Tell is Repealed

    On July 6, 2011 a federal appeals court rules against any further enforcement of the U.S. military's ban on openly gay people serving in the armed forces. President Obama sends the certification to Congress on July 22, and on September 20, DADT is officially repealed.

  • 2012 - Obama Expresses Support For Same-Sex Marriage

    Patrons at the historic Stonewall Inn watch a news report on May 9, 2012, as President Barack Obama says in a televised interview that he believes same sex couples should be able to get married. President Obama becomes the first American president to come out in favor of gay marriage.

  • 2012 - USA Today

    As of June, 2012, same-sex marriage is legal in Connecticut, Washington DC, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont. The states of Washington and Maryland have passed laws to begin granting same-sex marriage licenses, and Rhode Island recognizes all same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions. In California, same-sex marriages that took place between June16, 2008 and November 4, 2008 (when Proposition 8 passed) are still recognized.

  • 2012 - DOMA is Ruled Unconstitutional

    On May 31st, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston rules that the Defense of Marriage Act discriminates against married same-sex couples because it denies them federal benefits given to heterosexual married couples. The court agrees with a lower court judge who ruled in 2010 that the law is unconstitutional because it interferes with the right of a state to define marriage.


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This user has chosen to opt out of the Badges program
52 minutes ago ( 6:56 AM)
"interracial marriage was a criminal offense in this country;"

Oft quoted, but doesn't have any bearing on SS "marriage".

" was a day of celebration..."

If even more kids being deprived of either a father or a mother is cause for celebration. Not me.
8 hours ago (12:00 AM)
Thank You Ms. Thomas
For all you've done for children and Women.
God is more vast than the Bible.
10 hours ago ( 9:24 PM)
Ms. Thomas, Once again you rise to the occasion of humanity. Your continued work for your father's baby, St. Jude's, is indeed admirable. That you would enter into the LGBT rights foray is icing on the cake of a life full of love, respect, compassion, and justice.

You are to be admired. And I wish more could be like you.
named after a great play written by Clifford Odets
11 hours ago ( 8:27 PM)
Cheers to That Girl. Thank you so much.
That Job Just Isn't Into You!
12 hours ago ( 8:13 PM)
Power to the people.
12 hours ago ( 8:00 PM)
Always liked "that girl" and now I know why! Cheers to you Marlo ;)
13 hours ago ( 7:12 PM)
I first 'met' you listening to the album Free to be You and Me. I bought the CD for my daughter.

Thank you for this article. Thank you for your voice over the years!
Valerie Keefe
14 hours ago ( 5:58 PM)
It's always so nice to see the kinder-gentler face of the second wave here. For her, June 24th was a day of celebration. For those of us who saw GENDA fail, it was a stunning reminder that the left is far more committed to ensuring someone assigned male at birth has the right to marry a man then they are committed to ensuring someone assigned male at birth has the right to live as a woman free from discrimination. I'm in favour of both, but the collective yawn from activists in The Empire State has given me pause.
Proud Texan/Ashamed of Perry
8 hours ago (11:57 PM)
Hey Valerie--please don't give up hope yet! Yes, that WAS disappointing, but as long as Rom-bot isn't elected, the passage of GENDA will happen!
Gigi Jacobs
Devloper, small business owner, although recent st
5 hours ago ( 2:24 AM)
I always wondered why they "pre-assign" a person to be male. You don't know that truly till you see a person's behavior and their brain will tell you who they are. I think it's a shame to decide for someone and then have been wrong. Must cause much confusion and terror on the person. I guess they figure one operation is the easier "so will go with that". What a shame. The clues come out very early and just a year or more and nature would have revealed the true identity. The person could have lived in much greater peace with themselves if we let nature tell us the way.
15 hours ago ( 4:47 PM)
Excuse me, but where is the mention of Massachusetts that started the ball rolling in 2004 with legalizing same sex marriage?
Valerie Keefe
14 hours ago ( 6:01 PM)
I don't know, where's the mention that Massachusetts with a 3/4ths majority still hasn't passed non-discrimination legislation that protects the right of trans people to access public accommodations? Or that Massachusetts is the state home to the longest lag between cisGL rights and any recognition of trans rights? Or howabout that Massachusetts is the place of work and respite for Janice Raymond, whose memos to the Reagan Administration denied transition medicine to hundreds of thousands, and contributed to the deaths of roughly 60,000 women.

I'll be happy to give Massachusetts all the LGBT rights recognition it can handle.
Valerie Keefe
14 hours ago ( 6:02 PM)
3/4ths Democratic majority, but you probably already got the picture.
This comment has been removed due to violations of our [Guidelines]
16 hours ago ( 3:53 PM)
Always Classy Ms. Thomas!
16 hours ago ( 3:35 PM)
This subject is beaten into the ground...we have much bigger issues in this country and the world. Gay marriage won't do a thing to help our economy, wipe out the debt, clean up corruption in DC and protect our country from terrorism...get over yourselves!
Cthulhu saves, in case he's hungry later.
15 hours ago ( 4:49 PM)
It is possible to walk and chew gum at the same time.
13 hours ago ( 6:40 PM)
It seem the only truth you detect is your own. Get over yourself.
18 hours ago ( 2:10 PM)
My husband and I debate about this constantly. I believe, with all my heart, that gays should be allowed to be married. To deny this brings us back to the time when blacks were not allowed to marry whites because it was "unChristian". For goodness sakes. It's 2012.
15 hours ago ( 4:53 PM)
It doesn't matter what "we" believe. Whatt matters is the Lord's law. God made each of us and to not use it for our purpose but, for his....
named after a great play written by Clifford Odets
11 hours ago ( 8:32 PM)
You aren't the arbiter of the "Lord".

My Christian church welcomes gays and performs same sex weddings.
God is more vast than the Bible.
11 hours ago ( 9:11 PM)
Isn't it supposed to be "His"?

And who's interpretation do you refer?

Cause it makes a difference.
11 hours ago ( 9:01 PM)
The last state to legalize inter-racial marriage was Alabama. This only happened in the year 2000! Read about the "Loving" family yes, that was the white husband's actual name. HBO did a special on them this past Valentine's day.
18 hours ago ( 1:46 PM)
We should always remember that Marlo Thomas' husband, Phil Donahue, was, in an important way, an early gay rights pioneer. He supported gay rights, publicly and on his television show, long before it was popluar for celebrities to do so. The LGBT community owes him and Ms. Thomas our gratitude.
12 hours ago ( 8:04 PM)
I love them both
18 hours ago ( 1:32 PM)
Right on Marlo! Thank you for supporting Gay Americans and for being a voice of reason. My song One Love One World is about equality and civil rights for all. You can hear it at
You are an inspiration!
Gigi Jacobs
Devloper, small business owner, although recent st
5 hours ago ( 2:29 AM)
That's because Marlo is a genuine person with empathy-very rare amongst humans.