Category: marriage equality

OCTOBER 4: Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir (1942-)


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
of Iceland!


After serving out a single term as Prime Minister of Iceland,

Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir

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.


JULY 12: Malta legalizes same-sex marriage (20…


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. 

The single
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!!


JUNE 30: Germany legalizes same-sex marriage (…


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.


JUNE 26: America legalizes same-sex marriage (…


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:

 “No union
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.”  


JUNE 16: San Francisco celebrates its first sa…


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. 


MAY 24: Taiwan legalizes same-sex marriage (20…


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!


APRIL 17: the KG Club in New Zealand


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.

at the KG Club, by Fiona Clark

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.

at the KG Club, by Fiona Clark

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
(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
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.


MARCH 26: the Supreme Court starts the same-se…


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).

Kristin Perry & Sandra Stier celebrating during Pride in 2013. Photo taken by InSapphoWeTrust

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.

Eventually, in June of that same year, the Supreme Court ruled that legal same-sex marriages couldn’t
be denied federal benefits
, and basically overturned Prop 8. Following which, same-sex marriages in California promptly resumed and Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier got to be the first ones married in San Francisco.

Conclusion: as always, queer women are the change we want to see in the world.

– AK

MARCH 3: Japan celebrates its first same sex m…


Happy fourth anniversary to Koyuki Hirosho and Higashi Masuhara, who were married on this day in 2013 at Tokyo Disneyland and became Japan’s first same sex couple to tie the knot! 

Koyuki and Higashi pose with a fellow iconic couple, Mickey and Minnie Mouse. (x)

Although same sex marriage was not legalized in Japan at the time, Koyuki and Higashi were the first couple in the nation to override the law and hold a ceremonial wedding. Tokyo Disneyland initially told the couple that they would only be allowed to host the wedding at the park if they were “dressed as a man and a woman,” but Koyuki and Higashi ignored that bigoted rule as well and were both married in white wedding dresses. Higashi was quoted by the Huffington Post in 2013 as saying, “We may not have a law that applies to us, but when someone congratulates us for the wedding, I will proudly say, ‘Thank you!’” 

In November of 2015, Koyuki and Higashi made history once again by being the first same sex couple to officially receive a certificate from the Japanese government recognizing their marriage. While same sex marriage remains illegal in the whole of Japan, the Tokyo ward of Shibuya voted to legalize gay marriage in March of 2015. The ward Setagaya also voted in favor of same sex marriage a few months after Koyuki and Higashi’s historic marriage. Although the certificates that are given out through these ordinances allow same sex couples the rights of hospital visitation and joint apartment rentals, they more closely resemble the concept of civil partnerships rather than fully legally binding marriages. However, this small fact could not bring down Koyuki and Higashi’s happiness on that Thursday afternoon in 2015. The Huffington Post once again quoted Higashi as saying, ““I am exhilarated that the city I am living in has recognized my partner as my family.”


Koyuki and Higashi proudly display their new 2015, state certified marriage certificate. (x)


DECEMBER 25: Donna Burkett and Manonia Evans a…

Merry Christmas to all of those who celebrate! Today we are going to cover the story of two women named Donna Burkett and Manonia Evans who were married on December 25, 1971. Their unofficial wedding ceremony came at the end of one of the very first legal battles to fight for marriage equality in American history.

In a 1971 interview with GPU News, the news magazine of Milwaukee’s gay and lesbian community, Donna Burkett said, “

The law should protect us and help us the way it does any two straight people who love each other and want to live together…That’s our civil rights; that’s what this is all about” (x).

It all began on
October 1, 1971. Donna and Manonia simply walked into the Office of the Milwaukee
Country Clerk and attempted to apply for a marriage license. The county clerk
at the time, Thomas Zablocki, told the two women that he could not accept their
application on account of the fact that the state defined marriage as being
between a man and woman. Although Donna and Manonia were fully aware of this
fact when they walked into his office, it was that verbal rejection which
allowed them to formally file a lawsuit stating that the state’s
refusal to grant them a marriage license violated their civil rights.

America had
never seen a story such as this before. Magazines such as Jet and The Advocate
picked up Donna and Manonia’s story and followed the lawsuit until it was
dismissed by District Judge Myron L. Gordon on January 19, 1972. Before they
could wait to hear the verdict from the judge, however, Donna and Manonia held
a wedding on Christmas Day 1971. Rev. Joseph Feldhausen officiated and over 250
of their friends and family were in attendance; the two women recall Donna
having worn a black tuxedo with Manonia wearing a traditional white lace dress.

Although Donna
and Manonia’s legal case was ultimately a failure, it was cases such as theirs
which helped kick start the American marriage equality movement that would first
gain traction in the 1990s. Their story serves as a reminder that gay and
lesbian couples have always lived happy and successful lives with each other, regardless of if the government was willing to issue some piece of paper sanctioning that happiness.