On November 14, 2017, the people
of Australia voted yes to legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the nation.
A crowd celebrates in Melbourne, Australia, as the same-sex marriage survey results are announced. Despite the Yes victory, the outcome is not binding, and the process to change current laws will move to the Australian Parliament in Canberra. (Scott Barbour/Getty Images) (x).
The national poll survey to see if the
Australian legislature should legalize same-sex marriage began in September of
this year. After two months of relentless campaigning by LGBT activists, it has
been reported that a 61% of the population has voted to legalize same-sex marriage.
Over 12.7 million people took part in the poll, roughly 79.5% of the country,
and every state and territory returned a majority “yes” vote.
The Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm
Turnbull, has called for Parliament to approve the legalization of same-sex
marriage by Christmas 2017. In response to the poll results, Turnbull said, “They
voted ‘yes’ for fairness, they voted ‘yes’ for commitment, they voted ‘yes’ for
love. And now it is up to us here in the Parliament of Australia to get on with
Happy birthday to Jóhanna
Sigurðardóttir, who was born on this day in 1942 and who became the very first
lesbian head of government in 2009 when she was elected as the Prime Minister
After serving out a single term as Prime Minister of Iceland,
announced that she would not seek re-election and retired from politics once her term was out in 2013 (x).
Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir was born on
October 3, 1942 in Reykjavík, Iceland. She was born into a middle class family
and grew up to study at a state-run vocational high school called the
Commercial College of Iceland. After graduating in 1960, she became a flight
attendant with the airline Loftleiðir. Over the years, she became heavily
interested in the trade union movement and eventually became a member of the
Board of the Icelandic Cabin Crew Association, the Board of Svölurnar, and the Board of the Commercial
Workers’ Union. It was her work in the labor movement that lead to her start in
politics, and in 1978, Jóhanna was elected to parliament as a member of the
Social Democratic Party.
In addition to serving in the parliament,
Jóhanna was also elected vice-chairman of the Social Democratic Party in 1984
and served as Minister of Social Affairs in 1987. In 2009, Iceland’s financial
crisis resulted in the formation of a new government and due to Jóhanna’s high
popularity with the people and her strong ties with the Social Democratic
Alliance and the Left-Green Movement, she was voted in as the new government’s Prime Minister. This move changed the course of history, as Iceland became the first nation to ever have an openly lesbian head of government. She remained
Prime Minister until 2013 and today is remembered for having lead the nation
out of its financial crisis and for also having outlawing strip clubs across the nation, which resulted in many hailing Iceland as “the most feminist country
in the world.”
Jóhanna and her wife Jónína photographed with their seventh grandchild (x).
Jóhanna was married to a man named
Steinar Jóhannesson in 1970 and the two had two sons before divorcing in 1987.
After the divorce, she came out as a lesbian and entered into a civil union
with her wife Jónína Leósdóttir, who is a well-known writer. Jóhanna and Jónína
became one of the first same gender couples to be legally wed in Iceland after it was
legalized in the nation in 2010.
In a surprising announcement, the strict Catholic nation of
Malta has just legalized same-sex marriage beginning on this day – July 12,
People celebrate in front of the Auberge de Castille, the office of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, which is lit in rainbow colors after the Maltese parliament voted to legalize same-sex marriage on the Roman Catholic Mediterranean island, in Valletta, Malta, July 12, 2017 (x).
Malta has historically been a mixed bag when it comes to
progressive politics; the nation only made divorce legal in 2011, but legalized
civil unions for same-sex couples just three years later in 2014. Although 98%
of the population in Malta identify as traditional Roman Catholics, support for
the full legalization of same-sex marriage has been high ever the 2014 ruling
on civil unions. Malta’s parliament responded to the general public’s wishes when it was announced that a vote to officially
make the language of Malta’s wedding laws gender neutral to include same-sex
couples, and thus make same-sex marriage legal, had passed by 66-1.
MP who voted against the bill was Edwin Vassallo, who offers his religion as
his reasoning: “A Christian politician cannot leave his
conscience outside the door.” As for the 66 other MPs who supported the bill,
they have voted for the classic line “you are now husband and wife” to be
replaced with “you are now spouses,” for “maiden name” to be replaced with “surname
at birth,” and for “mother and father” on adoption documents to simply be replaced with “parents.” Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Musca has expressed satisfaction
with the changes, calling the old legislation which secluded same-sex couples
to civil unions “discriminatory.” Congratulations, Malta!!
Today – on June 30, 2017 – in what the president of the
Parliament, Norbert Lammert, called “an unusually early meeting with unusually
many deputies and journalists present,” Germany joined many of its fellow
western European nations in legalizing same-sex marriage!
Polls show that the majority of German people have been in favor of same-sex marriage for several years. Today that will of the people was reflected in the 393-226 passing of a bill that will legalize same-sex unions (x).
Although same-sex couples have been able to enter into civil
unions for many years, they could not enter into marriages equal to that of
straight couples until today’s historic ruling. The parliamentary vote was
spurred on by Prime Minister Angela Merkel announcing on June 26th
that not only had she undergone a “life changing” experiencing by meeting a
lesbian couple who were foster parents for eight children, but that she was
aware of the popularity of the same-sex marriage issue and would call for a
free vote in the future. The German people, who have long since been in favor
of same-sex marriage according to various polls, immediately began pressuring
their government for a vote on the matter as soon as possible. Despite her
seemingly new supportive stance, Angela Merkel voted against the June 30th
bill; however, that did not stop the LGBT community and many German political parties that are supportive of LGBT rights from celebrating the
historic turnout of the vote, which was resoundingly affirmative. The bill will
have to be voted through Germany’s upper house, Bundesrat, next week before it
will officially become law, but the likelihood of that happening is very high
and the German people have already begun celebrating – both on Twitter with the
hashtag #EheFuerAlle (MarriageForAll) and on the streets across the nation.
Today is the two year anniversary of Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark Supreme Court case that declared
same-sex marriage legal across the entire United States on June 26, 2015!
On the night of June 26, 2015, the White House was lit up in rainbow colors to celebrate the fact that same-sex marriage had been made legal across the entire United States of America (x).
The case that would eventually change American history began
on July 11, 2013 when James Obergefell and John Arthur were married in
Maryland. When they found out that their marriage was considered
null because same-sex marriage was not legal in their home state of Ohio, James and John sued the state. The Obergefell team eventually teamed up with the
plaintiffs of DeBoer v. Snyder and Tanco v. Haslam, two other cases that also
dealt with same-sex couple marriage rights, and a petition for writs of
certiorari was filed with the Supreme Court. On January 16, 2015, it was
decided that the Supreme Court would review the state laws outlawing same-sex marriage
as one case. After the arguments were heard in April of that year it took the Court
two months to come to a decision; On June 26, 2015, the court came to a 5-4
decision and it was declared that the Fourteenth Amendment demands all states
grant same-sex marriages. The declaring document reads:
is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love,
fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family…It would misunderstand these men and women
to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect
it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves.
Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of
civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of
the law. The Constitution grants them that right. The judgement of the Court of
Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed. It is so ordered.”
It doesn’t take too much digging around LGBT
history to come across the names Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon. Not only were
they the founders of the Daughters of Bilitis and the landmark lesbian magazine The Ladder, but they were also the
very first same-sex couple to be legally married in San Francisco on this day in
Despite only being legally married for less than a year, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon were partners for 58 years (x).
Del and Phyllis’s love story is truly one for the ages. The two
met in 1950 in the city whose history they would eventually be woven into, San
Francisco. They officially moved in together on Valentine’s Day in 1953 and it
was out of their shared apartment on Castro Street where they created some of
the most defining cultural touchstones of lesbian history in America – those touchstones
being the Daughters of Bilitis organization and its accompanying magazine The Ladder. The two worked side by side
in the movement their whole lives and were married for the first time on
February 12, 2004, but sadly that first marriage (along with thousands of other
couple’s marriages) were made defunct by the California Supreme Court in August
of that year. It was only when same-sex marriage was finally declared fully legal
in the city in 2008 that Del and Phyllis were wed once and for all and became
the very first gay couple legally married in San Francisco on June 16, 2008. Del
Martin passed away just two months later on August 27, 2008; she died a happily
married woman, twice over.
Spain celebrated its legalization of same-sex marriage on
June 30, 2005, but unbeknownst to many, the first real same-sex marriage in
Spain took place 104 years beforehand when a woman named Elisa Sanchez Loriga disguised
herself as a man and legally married her lover, Marcela Gracia Ibeas, on June 8,
Marcela and Elisa’s wedding photo shows Marcela (left) in traditional bridal attire and Elisa (right) disguised as a man (x).
Both Marcela and Elisa were elementary school teachers who
had met at college in A Coruña and their friendship eventually blossomed into a
romance. Marcela’s parents were unhappy with the candidness of the women’s
relationship and sent her to another college outside of A Coruña to finish her
studies; however, Marcela’s parents’ influence only lasted so long and once
Marcela and Elisa both finished college they settled down together in a village called
After living together for some time, Marcela and Elisa decided
that they wanted to get married, and so, they went to work devising a plan. In
order to trick their neighbors, Marcela and Elisa simulated a loud, angry fight
that resulted in Elisa moving back to A Coruña. Their families and community believed that the two had simply broken up and parted ways, but while
in A Coruña, Elisa was busy developing her new “male” identity. She cut her hair,
started wearing suits, took up smoking cigars, and tricked a priest into
baptizing her as a man named “Mario.” With her new identity assumed, Elisa moved back home and was legally married to Marcela on June 8, 1901 in the Church of St. Jorge in A Coruña.
Unfortunately, the honeymoon stage didn’t last long. Marcela
and Elisa’s neighbors became suspicious of this strange new man named “Mario”
whose appearance and voice were both creepily similar to Elisa’s. One of their
neighbors leaked the story of their “marriage without man” to local newspapers
and it broke out into a nationwide scandal. Marcela and Elisa both lost their
jobs, were excommunicated from the Church, and were issued arrest warrants. The
last that is known of the married couple is that they were able to escape local
authorities by boarding a ship that was destined for Argentina and never
returned. To this day, the marriage of Marcela and Elisa has never been
annulled by either the Catholic Church or the Civil Registry and they are still
considered to be the first same-sex couple to be legally married in Spain.
Today – on May 24, 2017 – the highest court of Taiwan’s
legal system has ruled that existing laws which prevent same-sex couples from
marrying are a source of inequality and are officially unconstitutional. The
court released a press release in which they declare, “such different treatment
is incompatible with the spirit and meaning of the right to equality.“
The momentum for the same-sex marriage ruling has been building ever since mid-2015, when the high court began to meet in Taiwan’s capital of Taipei to discuss the case (x).
Although this decision shows obvious support for same-sex
people and couples living in Taiwan, the Taiwanese parliament will have to
create actual new legislation before any legal same-sex marriages can take
place. If the Taiwanese parliament were to simply amend the existing marriage
laws to include same-sex couples, it would also grant those couples adoption,
parenting, and inheritance rights in one fell swoop. However, many LGBT
activists in the region are afraid that the parliament may choose to create new
legislation that fills the high court’s new requirement but sequesters same-sex
couples to the equivalent of a civil unions and to real, genuine marriages. Taiwan is known
for its liberal temperament and even holds the largest Pride parade in
Southeast Asia every year, so although time can only tell how this legal battle
will play out, the odds of same-sex couples in Taiwan finally being able to legally
marry seem bright!
On April 17, 2013, a bill to legalize same-sex marriage was
passed by the New Zealand House of Representatives; it received royal assent
two days later, and went into full effect on August 19, 2013. To celebrate
this, we’d like to tell you about the
KG Club, a legendary lesbian social club in Auckland that was the focal
point of the lesbian scene in the 70s.
KG Club stands for either “Karangahape Road Girl’s Club” or “Kamp
Girls Club.” It was founded by Raukura Te Aroha Hetet (nicknamed “Bubs”), in 1971. At first
the club would meet in various private homes, and then it finally moved to the
corner of Hereford
Street and Karangahape Road (hence the name). There, it quickly acquired a
reputation for hosting loud, wild parties. The other name, “Kamp Girls Club”
comes from the word “kamp,” which was derived from an acronym (“Known As Male
Prostitute”) apparently used by Australian police to designate gay men. A bit
like the word “queer,” “kamp” was reclaimed by gay men, as well as by lesbians
in Australia and then New Zealand.
The KG Club emerged at a time when lesbian social culture
was starting to thrive in urban spaces. Since gay liberation movements were
happening worldwide, local queer communities started organizing as well,
notably through sports (like hockey or softball) – sports culture being a
perfect space where people could socialize. Late in 1971, the KG Club was thus
founded to create a kind of structure to accommodate this growing scene. At the
club, lesbians would congregate to sing, play music, dance, eat, drink in a
women-only space. It’s also worth pointing out that this club, and many along
with it, was very much steeped in native Māori and working-class cultures. The memory
of the club still survives, notably through the research of Alison J. Laurie,
who devoted her doctoral thesis on the subject, and in the works of photographer Fiona Clark, who documented queer life and who notably took a few
photos of life at the KG Club.
If you’re interested in lesbian culture and history in New
Zealand, there’s plenty of sources and resources online, though they may not be
as visible as ones in the US or the UK. To start, give Women
Together (1993) a read, which’ll give you a historical perspective;
look up entries for New Zealand and Māori cultures in lesbian culture
encyclopedias; and check out these
archives as well as this
overview of the history of Pride in the country. Also, lesbians actually
have their own museum too.
Scroll through the lesbian
site for wlw NZ, which has got a complete list of everything
lesbian happening in NZ. And finally, read this testimony
written by Jenny Rankine, a sixty-four-year old lesbian white New Zealander
who lived through all the changes in the LGBT community over the last decades. She
describes what lesbians specifically endured in terms of discrimination. The whole’s
pretty sobering, but it’s also a good reminder of why we continue to unearth
our history and demand visibility and justice.
Four years ago today, the Supreme Court began a historical debate, which lasted two days, and which focused on the issue of same-sex marriage; and both cases brought before the Supreme Court were actually led by women.
The debate was twofold: on March 26th, the Supreme Court heard arguments about the constitutionality of Proposition 8, the California initiative that had banned same-sex marriage back in 2008, and the following day, the debate was centered on the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, a federal law passed in 1996 (#thankyouBillClinton) that restricted the definition of marriage to the union between a man and a woman. The Wall Street Journal has transcripts of the debates, and you can read a few articles here, here, and here, talking about the justices felt about these issues at the time.
March 26th was centered on the Hollingsworth vs. Perry case. In 2009, Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier had been denied a marriage license in Alameda County in California because of Prop 8; they decided to file a complaint, and thus became the plaintiffs in the case, along with
Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo, who’d also been denied a marriage license
in LA County (though Perry’s the name that remained for the legal designation of the case).
March 27th was focused on the United States vs. Windsor case. Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer got married in Toronto in 2007, but resided in the sate of New York, which did recognize their marriage in 2008. But Spyer died in 2009, and though Windsor inherited Spyer’s estate, she found that she couldn’t claim federal estate tax exemption for surviving spouses because of DOMA. This led to Windsor filing a lawsuit in 2010 against the federal government.