In the the months leading up to and following Stonewall, San Francisco had a well organized and radical Gay Liberation Movement.
I was just coming out and the radical gay men treated me like a kid sister sharing information about public health services and rumors regarding what was then the fledgling Transsexual self help/support network. There wasn’t much understanding but I was radically anti-war and so were many many of the guys in the Gay Liberation Front. Being open and articulate on my part helped as well.
I went to a conference in late 1969. Same-sex marriage was discussed at that conference.
A couple of years later there was a march on Sacramento. Marriage equality was one of the main issues.
In writing this I did a Google search on the history of gay and lesbian peoples struggle for marriage equality.
The following is from: http://www.tcnj.edu/~jamieso3/movement_history.htm
It can be said that the “gay marriage movement” began in the forties and fifties. During this time, FBI investigations were done on anyone in the gay community who was suspected “of having been joined legally in matrimony.” During one of these investigations on a couple known as Mr. and Mrs. David Warren, FBI agents discovered that the Warrens were far from a typical pair. Mr. and Mrs. Warren were in fact Thelma Jane Warren and Marieta Cook. The two women had received a marriage license in 1947, and had been living under the Warren name. Once discovered, agents arrested the women and charged them with criminal perjury (Eskridge 1996: 52).
Before the time of these arrests, there was a period where “anti-homosexual hysteria” broke out in the country. It was shortly after the end of World War II, when people began coming out. Although there was a huge up rise in the homosexual community, their demands for marriage in that time were “not taken seriously” (Eskridge 1996:52). In 1951, Donald Webster Cory wrote a book that became “the first major book advocating homosexual rights by a homosexual” (Eskridge 1996:52). In the book, Cory addressed a concept that many heterosexual people of America refused to ponder. He concentrated on the philosophy that a man’s love for a man or a woman’s love for another woman was the same kind of love that is felt in heterosexual couples (Eskridge 1996: 52-53). Another justification of legalizing gay marriage was “the anti-homosexual attitudes” of loved ones and the law tore gay relationships apart, prompting the promiscuity and loneliness, a typical stereotype of the gay community. To prevent these things from taking place, it was “a good reason why homosexuals ought to be able to participate in state-sanctioned marriage” (Eskridge 1996: 53).
After the turning point of the gay rights movement, America saw more and more cries towards legalizing gay marriage. The case of Baker vs. Nelson turned some heads in 1970. Richard Baker and his partner James McConnell decided to have a ceremony solidifying their relationship in the eyes of God. They had their religious ceremony in Minneapolis, Minnesota (Eskridge 1996: 46). When the two men went to get their legal marriage license on May 18, 1970, they were met with an unwelcome response. The clerk at the time, Gerald Nelson, was given orders by the district attorney to not grant any homosexual couples a marriage license due to the fact that it was against Minnesota state law for same-sex couples to be legally wed (Eskridge 1996: 48). Following the denial of a license ,Baker took Nelson to court saying he had no legal right to deprive him and his partner of a marriage license. In the case Baker vs. Nelson, which commenced in 1971, Baker lost his battle, making the case the “first appellate decision in the U.S. on the issue of same-sex marriage” (Eskridge 1996:48).
Although Baker lost his case, many gay Americans still believed it was their right to have a ceremony honoring their relationship with their partner. In the late 1960’s, there came to be a group known as the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) (Eskridge 1996:46). Led by Reverend Troy Perry, the MCC was a religious group catering to the homosexual population of America. Included in the groups “bylaws” was the right to perform union ceremonies for same-sex couples (Sherman 1992: 5). Like many other same-sex marriages, the couples would dress in drag, which was quite common in the 1970’s. During this period, the butch-femme roles taken on by the couples were more popular then than they are today (Sherman 1992:6).
During the 1970’s, there were a few attempts at making gay marriages legal. In 1972, The National Coalition of Gay Organizations made a “list of demands for law reform.” Within these reforms, they wanted the boundaries of marriage to opposite sex couples eliminated. Their wish was not granted (Eskridge 1996: 54). In 1975, Councilman Arrington Dixon attempted to pass a bill that reconstructed Washington D.C.’s marriage laws. In this bill, he included that same-sex marriages should be authorized (Eskridge 1996: 49). This time, the law is not what fought against Dixon. It was the Archdiocese of Washington D.C. that tried to battle his bill. The Archdiocese put up such a great fight that Dixon decided the best thing to do was to withdraw the bill from Congress. During his time as councilman, he attempted to put the same bill through Congress a few more times, but would always recede it once the Archdiocese became involved (Eskridge 1996: 49). Within the same year, Colorado became a center for gay marriage. A clerk by the name of Cela Rorex gave out a minimum of six same-sex couple marriage licenses. These actions were heralded after she was told “Colorado’s gender-neutral marriage law did not clearly forbid same-sex marriages” (Eskridge 1996:55).
So Marriage Equality isn’t some new idea concocted by Gay men and Lesbians to distract attention away from the causes most favored by transgender and transsexual folks.
It is a movement, an aspiration that existed a full generation before Stonewall. It was a goal when the earliest groups such as the Mattachine Society, ONE and Daughters of Bilitis first formed as circles of friends in the dark era of McCarthyism. Back when it was illegal to have relationships with a member of the same sex, small groups of brave souls dared dream of a day when two people of the same sex could marry.
For many elderly gays and lesbians marriage equality has been a dream of over fifty years.
After living together in a marriage of the souls for over fifty years Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon were finally able to marry during the brief sliver of time that same sex marriage was legal in California. Unfortunately Del died a short time after they were finally able to marry.
Many in the transgender and transsexual communities are heterosexual after SRS or as transgender people. ( I’m not going to fight about the “same sex marriage between an assigned female at birth person and a transgender woman who has male sex parts. It may be same gender but the state views it as between a man and a woman.)
There are others who play document games to achieve the same end. The term for such is heterosexual privilege.
Lesbians and gay men have every right to prioritize their own political agenda even if it does not coincide with the priorities of the transgender community.
Often times the priorities of Transgender Inc are not the same priorities as those of post-transsexual women and men.
In the case of straight sisters and brothers their priorities are to simply be accepted as straight men and women with all the rights and privileges commonly accorded to straight men and women.
In the case of post-transsexual lesbians and gay men our priorities are very often those of the lesbian or gay community and as such may or may not coincide with those who consider themselves part of the transgender umbrella.
I can understand this. After all, “The personal is the political.” While I am not hostile to the passage of a transgender inclusive ENDA and will write the letters, sign the petitions, make calls it really isn’t my issue.
On the other hand, my partner and I are old lesbians. Because we are both post-transsexual we couldn’t even pull the paper trick even if wanted to. Not that either of us would do that because that would be utilizing both heterosexual and male privilege.
I think it is pretty safe to say you won’t find me lending my voice to the growing outcry on the part of the transgender community regarding gay and lesbian folks continuing their 60 year struggle towards marriage equality instead of dropping everything to work on ENDA, which doesn’t have a chance as long as Republicans control any house of Congress or the Presidency.