Gay rights activist spent decades fighting for marriage equality

Byby Katie Utehs KGO logo
Saturday, June 27, 2015
Gay rights activist spent decades fighting for marriage equality
An attorney and gay rights activist traveled a long road to marriage quality ultimately winning a case decades ago at the U.S. Supreme Court.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A rally was held in San Francisco's Castro District following the U.S. Supreme Court's same-sex ruling on Friday.

People in San Francisco's Castro neighborhood are now living in color, having traveled the long road to marriage quality. "We've been waiting for a long time for this to be true," Attorney and gay rights activist John Ward said.

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Ward says it was bumpy and sometimes a dangerous journey. "It was just dripping with hatred and prejudice and 'no you are other, you are other, you are other"' he said.

In 1978 he founded Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders in Boston. "One of my colleagues went with me the first time I went to court to argue a gay case because I was so nervous," Ward said.

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Decades later a Glad attorney argued a marriage equality case at the U.S. Supreme Court and won in a 5-4 decision. "I immediately looked at the dissenting opinions and thought how can they take it away," Ward said.

Long before former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom performed same-sex marriages at San Francisco City Hall in 2004, people like Anthony Lopez fought for fairness. "I have a right to have a business," he said.

In the 1970's he opened the first gay Latino bar in the Mission District, but police held the permits. "It was just fighting it and fighting it and fighting it, they didn't want you to succeed," he said.

But many succeeded changing rules and capturing hearts.

The man once considered a radical was Supervisor Harvey Milk. His former camera shop is now a store for the human rights campaign. "It's still extraordinary to me how much things have changed in my lifetime," Ward said.

And while same-sex couples can now marry from California to Kansas, we are far from over the rainbow in terms of equality in the United States. "People think we've won something, we have and we're just beginning the next phase of the journey," Bill Gordon said.

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PDF: Supreme Court opinion on same-sex marriage

PDF: Supreme Court summary of Obergefell vs Hodges

For full coverage on the same-sex marriage battle, click here.