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Same-sex marriage ruling a watershed moment in fight against discrimination, but the war continues

Same-sex marriage ruling a watershed moment in fight against discrimination, but the war continues

Public must continue efforts

This one is for Ronin Shimizu.

Ronin was 12 years old when he hung himself from his bunk bed in December. He was a member of the cheer-leading squad and he sewed his own clothes. He'd been bullied at school because the kids said he was gay. One day, he couldn't take it anymore and just ended it.

This one is for Matthew Shepard. Matthew was a 21-year-old college student in Wyoming, who in 1998 was beaten, tortured, pistol-whipped, tied to a fence and left to die. The two men convicted of his murder pretended to be gay to lure Matthew into their car.

This one is for Shane Bitney Crone. Shane wasn't allowed to visit his partner, Tom Bridegroom, in the hospital after Bridegroom was gravely injured in a fall from a roof. Bridegroom's family blamed Shane for 'making' their son gay, and wouldn't let him attend the funeral.

This one is for Edie Windsor. Edie fought the government to recover $363,000 in estate taxes after the death of her longtime partner, Thea Spyer. The couple had been together for more than 40 years, were legally married in Canada, and were together until Spyer died following a 30-year battle against progressive multiple sclerosis. Her 2013 legal case led the U.S. Supreme Court to declare a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, and paved the way for Friday's monumental ruling declaring same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states.

This one is for all the people who have faced discrimination because of their sexual orientation, who have been battered verbally, emotionally and, in many cases, physically because of who they are.

Friday's 5-4 Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges and three related cases clears away decades of sanctioned discrimination by extending a Constitutional right to a segment of Americans who had been up to that point denied that right.

In his majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, "They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

Equal dignity in the eyes of the law. Gay couples have that now.

This decision should be seen as a watershed moment in our nation's history. And it should serve to empower supporters of equal rights to continue to push for the end of all discrimination, whether it be based on sexual orientation, gender affiliation, race, religion or some other reason.

As profound as this decision is, though, many will not accept it on its value. Supreme Court decisions aren't magic pills to cure all of society's problems. The 1967 decision in Loving v. Virginia supporting the right of interracial marriage helped, but didn't end, discrimination against mixed-race couples.

Even some of the judges on the court mocked Friday's ruling, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Antonin Scalia finding that the majority decision wasn't rooted in the Constitution, but in social manipulation and departure into legislating.

The decision won't change the minds of people who believe, for religious reasons, that marriage remains the exclusive right of heterosexual couples. Still others will oppose it because of their own bigotry and closed-mindedness. Those people will continue to exist, and it is against them that the battle for equality must continue.

It's interesting that the decision comes as the nation debates the flying of the Confederate flag, a symbol of racism and treason dating back to our nation's earliest and darkest days. A century-and-a-half after the end of the Civil War, we still find ourselves battling against racial discrimination.

These perpetual challenges remind us of the words of President Ronald Reagan, who in his watershed statement against Communism, once admonished Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down that wall."

Our nation still has many walls to tear down. It is our duty as Americans to honor those who have suffered in the face of discrimination in all forms, and to continue to strike out against it.

On Friday, the highest court in the land handed us a sledgehammer.

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