Join us in celebrating the first anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act. To gear up for the June 26 anniversary, msnbc will feature couples’ and individuals’ reflections on the impact the decision has had on their lives and the future of the LGBT rights fight in the United States. On June 25, 2014, just a day before the anniversary, Indiana became the 20th state in the nation where gay and lesbians couples can legally wed. Minutes later, a three-judge panel on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Utah’s ban on same-sex nuptials – the first time a federal appeals court has ruled in favor of marriage equality since the DOMA decision.
In the last year, marriage equality has come to 10 states. Federal judges have also struck down same-sex marriage bans in Idaho, Oklahoma, Virginia, Michigan, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin, though their decisions are on hold pending appeals.
No ban on same-sex nuptials has survived in federal court since DOMA’s demise. And, as of this month, every remaining ban has been hit with a legal challenge. Both marriage equality advocates, and opponents alike, believe it won’t be long before the issue is once again before the U.S. Supreme Court, and ultimately legalized throughout the nation.
This Q & A has been edited for clarity.
Name: Jamila Woods
City, State: Chicago, Illinois
Profession: Lead vocalist in the band M&O; poet; teaching artist; organizer
Below are Jamila’s responses to the questions.
Have you noticed a general shift in attitude toward the LGBT community since the Supreme Court ruling?
To be honest, I haven’t. I work mostly in youth spaces and artistic communities, and the people that surround me in these spaces are often more concerned with other LGBT issues, e.g. day-to-day interpersonal instances of homophobia. Many LGBT youth feel like there are not enough LGBT-safe spaces where they can freely express themselves and feel comfortable in their own skin.
What are the ways in which the DOMA ruling has fallen short?
I think the DOMA ruling is important because, of course, any couple who wants to should be able to get married. But this ruling is by no means the end-all, be-all of gay rights. Groucho Marx said, “Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who wants to live in an institution?” We have to recognize that isolated institutional changes only go so far, and that homophobia is still alive and well in our country.
What would you like President Obama and future leaders to prioritize in terms of LGBT rights?
I would like to see the president put forth legislation that acknowledges the intersection of oppression faced by LGBTQ people of marginalized racial and class backgrounds. I would also like government leaders to realize that making laws alone will not solve the problem. It is also important to support and fund organizations working on the ground to combat homophobia and provide safe spaces for LGBT people.
What are your hopes and dreams for the next generation or [for your children]?
A big question a lot of youth organizations face that I have been struggling with lately is how to create safe spaces for young people of different, traditionally marginalized identities. How do you motivate these youth, who may encounter various iterations of violence on a daily basis, to come into a space and commit to making that space safe for each other?
I would love to see the next generation continue to recognize that the violence against LGBT people, against black and Latino people, against immigrants, and against poor people are not separate. To live in a state that denies on person’s human rights solely on the basis of their identity means that none of us is truly free.
Follow Jamila on Twitter @duhmilo and check out a stage reading of her play, “All Who Have Sinned,” about homophobia in the black church.
Don’t miss yesterday’s profile, Broadway actor takes a lead role in supporting marriage equality.