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Five years ago today, the U.S. Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal across the country. It was a big win for LGBTQ people. Recently, the court also ruled it is illegal to fire someone because they're gay, lesbian or transgender. NPR's Jeff Brady reports celebrations marking the fifth anniversary of the marriage decision have been somewhat dampened by the coronavirus.
JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: Back in 2015, people cheered on the steps of the Supreme Court.
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UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: U.S.A. U.S.A.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: I feel like I just need to be hugging everyone. Everyone gets hugs. Everyone gets hugs.
BRADY: Five years later, the anniversary is being celebrated with fewer hugs because of the coronavirus. And one celebration happened online as part of New York's Stonewall Day, marking the start of the protest in 1969 that prompted the modern campaign for LGBTQ rights.
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BARACK OBAMA: Because of the movement they sparked and the decades of work that followed, marriage equality became the law of the land five years ago.
BRADY: Former President Obama was among the long list of celebrities who recorded messages that aired on the cable network Logo. Around the country, couples are celebrating in their own ways. In Durham, N.C., Barb Goldstein and Ann Willoughby are looking through a scrapbook documenting their activism, including a photo of both on the front page of the local newspaper.
BARB GOLDSTEIN: It was really a big deal, especially for Ann because she had never been open. And finally she decided to just go for it.
BRADY: Ann Willoughby is 84 years old and says the marriage campaign helped her come out after decades in the closet.
ANN WILLOUGHBY: I guess the legality made me feel that, hey, this is OK. I'm a part of society. This is the way it should be. I don't need to hold back or pretend anymore.
TORI WOLFE-SISSON: Being married is amazing. Being able to be with the person that you love is amazing. It is amazing.
BRADY: Tori Wolfe-Sisson was active in marriage campaigns in the South and says the Supreme Court decision has contributed to increasing acceptance of LGBTQ people.
WOLFE-SISSON: It is shifting our culture in a way that is forcing people to accept. Like, you have to because the law says it.
BRADY: But there's still criticism that the focus on marriage pushed aside campaigns to help LGBTQ people who face multiple forms of discrimination.
ALPHONSO DAVID: So an example is a Black transgender woman.
BRADY: Alphonso David is president of the Human Rights Campaign.
DAVID: She happens to be Black and faces racial oppression in this country and transgender and faces oppression because of her gender identity.
BRADY: Last fall, after years of criticism, his group created the Transgender Justice Initiative to address the violence and other harms trans people often face. This pivot to transgender issues has been matched by groups that fought against same-sex marriage. Many of them are motivated by a conservative Christian theology that sees homosexuality and being transgender as unnatural. Peter Sprigg with the Family Research Council says despite a defeat on the marriage decision, he's optimistic.
PETER SPRIGG: The LGBT movement has been promoting what are essentially lies about the nature of humanity, the nature of the human person. And I don't think that lies can prevail forever. I think that eventually the truth will triumph.
BRADY: Groups like Sprigg's used the idea of religious freedom to argue in court that discrimination against LGBTQ people should be allowed in things like public accommodations and housing, a legal argument that courts are less and less friendly to, especially considering the Supreme Court's decision last week on banning employment discrimination. Michael Adams heads SAGE, which advocates for older LGBTQ people. He says religious freedom arguments around housing are a concern because...
MICHAEL ADAMS: Eighty-five percent of continuing retirement communities in this country are run by faith-based organizations.
BRADY: So five years after the Supreme Court's same-sex marriage decision, SAGE and other groups are focused on a new fight. They want to pass legislation in Congress called the Equality Act. It would prohibit LGBTQ discrimination in a wide variety of areas, including housing and health care. Jeff Brady, NPR News.
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