Gay-rights supporters in Chicago celebrate court rulings: ‘Never dreamed this could happen’
By MAUDLYNE IHEJIRIKA, FRAN SPIELMAN and Nausheen Husain Staff Reporters June 26, 2013 10:38AM
Dan Perry, 23, of East Lake View, at the rally in Boystown on Wednesday evening to celebrate the U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act. | Maudlyne Ihejirika~Sun-Times
Updated: July 30, 2013 7:28AM
When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act on Wednesday, Ald. James Cappleman (46th) and his partner, Richard Thale, didn’t know what to do first: laugh or cry.
So, they did both. Then, they hugged and kissed and rejoiced in a decision they thought would never come.
“We’re beyond elated. This is something we did not expect in our lifetime. We never dreamed this could possibly happen,” said Cappleman, 60.“When we met 22 years ago, it never occurred to us that marriage could be in the realm of possibility. Never in our wildest dreams. This reminds me when integration happened when I was a kid going to schools in Texas. This is how powerful it is for us. We are fully validated as a couple.”
Supporters of gay and lesbian rights in Illinois celebrated the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA, while expressing disappointment that court didn’t go further in explicitly declaring gay marriage a constitutional right.
In Boystown, about 500 people gathered at a festive victory rally Wednesday evening.
“We feel fantastic, this is a really, really great step forward for this movement,” said Dan Perry, 23, of East Lake View, who stood on the corner with a flag and sign. “It is very necessary, but its not the end of our fight for equality.”
Speaker after speaker took the stage and urged supporters to continue the fight for equal rights.
Andy Thayer, of the Gay Liberation Network, told the crowd: “Upon the Supreme Court building, it says ‘equal justice under the law,’ and for Illinois and many other states in the country, the Supreme Court failed to do that.”
Throughout Boystown, rainbow flags were hanging and waving, and banners in front of bars heralded the court’s ruling.
Many speakers lauded the court’s decision but said it fell short.
“Why should we be grateful that the court has recognized something that we should have had all along,” shouted aid Bob Schwartz, also of the Gay Liberation Network. “They could have ruled that marriage equality was the law of the land, but they didn’t, so we have our work cut out for us. We deserve full equality now!”
Other speakers said the ruling may add pressure on Illinois legislators to pass a gay-marriage bill in the fall.
“This is a significant ruling, and something we should all be proud of. But we are painfully aware that here in Illinois, our families are not recognized, and our Legislature does not protect us,” said Lee Newbecker, on stage with husband, Michael, and their daughter, Braiden, 9, and son, Michael, 10
After the two-hour rally, the crowd —holding signs, flags and banners and chanting, “What do we want? Equality! When do we want it? Now!” — marched south on Halsted into Wrigleyville, then back.
Opponents of gay marriage were relieved Wednesday that the court didn’t “mandate a redefinition of marriage” nationwide.
David Smith, the executive director of Illinois Family institute in Carol Stream, described the ruling as bad news for families.
“We are extremely disappointed because this is going to open the floodgates to more homosexual activities and further the homosexual political agenda,” he said.
Though nothing will change right away for gay Chicagoans, many saw the rulings as a step forward.
“The first thing that came out of my mouth this morning when I was talking to my partner was, ‘I think I’m going to have to get you a ring,’ ” said Juan Contreras, who has been with his partner for 15 years. “They’ll change the marriage bill into law, I think it’s going to happen. That’s why I’m excited about it.”
Contributing: Dave McKinney, Stefano Esposito, Becky Schlikerman and AP