Even in triumph, Chicago gay community vows to fight on

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A community speak-out in front of the city’s LGBT community center at 3656 N. Halsted. Friday, June 26, 2015 | (Brian Jackson/For the Chicago Sun-Times)

Chicago’s gay community turned out in the rain Friday night to hear leaders laud the new law of the land that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the United States.

“We’ve been fighting for this since the ’70s, and a lot of people have sacrificed a lot of years, a lot of energy,” activist Robert Castillo told a crowd of about 100 during a wet, hour-long celebration outside the Center on Halsted in Boystown, the heart of the city’s gay community.“Some sacrificed their lives, their livelihood, their children, just to be who they are.”

“I was lucky that me and John weren’t afraid to be out there in front demanding marriage equality,” he added. “I’m very happy for Couples like the one in Dallas who finally got to get married after 54 years together. If that’s not a family, I don’t know what is. This didn’t happen overnight. It’s been a long journey, but it’s finally here.”

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Organizers of the rally joined lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists in 50 cities holding evening commemorations after the Supreme Court ended two decades of litigation over gay rights. But they said their fight isn’t over.

“This victory today isn’t just a beacon for those in the red states — it’s a beacon for people around the world,” said Andy Thayer of the Gay Liberation Network. “The U.S. Conference of Bishops called the Supreme Court’s decision a ‘tragic error … profoundly immoral and unjust.’ Fortunately, as the good people of Ireland so recently showed, the majority of Catholics are on our side in this country, more on our side than even the rest of the population at large.”

Joe Murray of the Rainbow Sash movement of LGBT Catholics agreed, honoring straight allies who have supported the movement.

“This is and should be a celebration,” Murray said.“All of us have worked long and hard. This is a joyous day. But many of our straight allies made this happen. Without them, it would not have happened. We came together in unity and this is what unity can accomplish. Celebrate tonight, and by God, get drunk!”

One of those straight allies, Ally Buchwach of the support group Marriage Equality USA, said she was just as elated.

“I got involved about 10 years ago, and it’s always been very important to me to see that my friends and loved ones who are LGBT can walk down the street holding hands with their partners, just as I can walk down the street with a boyfriend,” she said. “It breaks my heart that we’re not there yet. But I think today is a huge step in that direction. It’s a huge symbol to show everyone that we believe that LGBT people are equal and the same as heterosexual people, but we have a lot further to go, because I don’t want to stop until we stamp out every bit of bigotry that still exists. Let’s celebrate!”

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Activist Bob Schwartz, 76, who traveled to Canada a decade ago to marry, warned efforts are already underway to undermine the ruling.

“While bigots here are talking about amending the U.S. Constitution to restore the old definition of marriage, 62 percent of the people in Ireland amended their constitution to approve same-sex marriage, and all across Western Europe, there was same-sex marriage years ago,” said Schwartz. “So I’m glad that by a razor-thin vote, the U.S. Supreme Court finally caught up with much of the rest of the world. However, some 80 governmental entities have already introduced bills and ordinances to defend so-called religious freedom — a lot of these are aimed right at our community. So there’s a lot of work to do. Let’s celebrate tonight. Then we have to keep on marching.”

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