On July 9, 2013, Julie Lobur and her wife Marla Cattermole, along with 10 other same-sex couples, a widow, and two children of a same-sex couple, sued for the freedom to marry in Pennsylvania and for recognition of out-of-state marriages for same-sex couples. On May 20, 2014, they won. Read more about the lawsuit at aclupa.org/marriage.
By Julie Lobur
I’ve simply been walking on air since Judge Jones’s decision nullifying Pennsylvania’s DOMA. Little in this world meant more to Marla and me than the legitimization of our relationship. For 28 years, we fought for marriage equality. We wrote checks, went to protests, and harangued anyone who would listen. On May 20, our dreams came true with seemingly surreal abruptness.
Until recently, many of us never thought we would see this day come in Pennsylvania. When I officially came out 41 years ago, it was still illegal to be gay in Pennsylvania (under penalty of 5 years in prison!). Of course, coming “out” in those days meant only identifying oneself to the gay community. The thought of public exposure of one’s sexual orientation terrified most of us.
In the 1970s, Harrisburg’s gay community was hidden underground. We lurked in the shadows equally fearful of the gay bashers and the police—sometimes one and the same. Closeted professionals who passed themselves off for straight lived in continual fear of blackmail. People who couldn’t “pass” for straight were grateful to be able to hang onto any job long enough to pay a few bills. We were relegated to gay ghettos where “respectable” people would never set foot. (Some of these same neighborhoods became chic gayborhoods where “respectable” people now pay a fortune to live.)
In hindsight, one might say that we were too quick to accept our second-class status. But mindsets are difficult to break. At our marriage ceremony decades later, I nearly had a panic attack when after saying our vows, the judge naturally instructed me to kiss Marla. My mind raced, “Gasp! Kiss Marla? In front of a judge??? Won’t I get in trouble? Is this a set up?” I somehow regained my composure before anyone noticed. That was when I fully realized how far we had come.
The life we have now is certainly beyond anything in my wildest dreams in 1973. It is a life that we are happy to see our young people take for granted. But I will be indebted to my dying day for all of the hard work, persistence, and bravery on the part of those who made it happen. Without the contributions of thousands of supporters and sympathetic friends, none of us would have seen justice. Every little bit helped.