PHOTO ESSAY BY DONNA ACETO | Having achieved its mission last June at the United States Supreme Court, Marriage Equality USA is in the process of carrying out a formal “sunsetting.” But the group is not exiting the stage without a series of thank-you celebrations around the country to recognize the contributions of volunteers, advocates, and plaintiffs who –– over the past 20 years –– made the progress achieved by the movement possible.
At an April 26 gathering at the LGBT Community Center, executive director Brian Silva was joined by longstanding leaders of the group, including Cathy Marino-Thomas and Ron Zacchi, in recalling two decades of activism, the earliest years of which were guided by pioneering voices who often worked largely without the support of the community’s largest advocacy groups.
MEUSA is currently compiling an archive of documentary evidence and photographs chronicling the history of a movement that many observers agree changed America more profoundly and faster than most social justice movements in US history have managed.
One local artifact that New Yorkers will prize is an original copy of New York Supreme Court Justice Doris Ling-Cohan’s 2005 ruling that recognized a right to marry under the State Constitution. Her decision was appealed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer –– and reversed by the State Court of Appeals in July 2006. Though it would be five more years until New York embraced marriage equality, Ling-Cohan’s reasoning was cited in successful cases nationwide in the years that followed. –– Paul Schindler contributed reporting.