Tristan and Max Madden were among the first to arrive Friday, June 26, at CNY Pride’s rally at First English Lutheran Church. The couple, who married in Maryland in 2011, were thrilled at the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling making same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states.
“I never expected this to happen,” Tristan Madden said. The court ruling makes their upcoming move to Tennessee easier. Tennessee voters in 2006 approved an amendment to the state constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman. That law is now void.
“We didn’t know what would happen with visitation rights and insurance,” Tristan Madden said. “Now there won’t be a problem.”
The Maddens — along with their 2-year-old daughter, Lillian Madden; and Tristan’s son, 7-year-old Edmund Maire — were among a jubilant crowd that grew to about 150 people outside the church at Townsend and James streets. On a sunny, early summer evening, the group shared hugs, smiles and rainbows as rush-hour traffic passed. Rally participants waved rainbow flags at drivers — most of them (including someone in a Syracuse Police Department car) honking their horns and waving. Unlike many past gay pride events in Syracuse, no protesters attended.
Harry Freeman-Jones, a Syracuse artist and activist who drew national attention with his 1973 marriage to Bob Jones in a Boston church, smiled and nodded during the rally. He described the beginning of the gay rights movement as “spaghetti dinners in musty church basements” where “people got to know each other’s stories.”
The last few years have been a whirlwind of rapidly changing public opinion and legal support for gay marriage, he noted. “We always hoped this would happen, but I certainly didn’t think it would be in my lifetime,” said Freeman-Jones, 68. “It’s a totally different world. I’m so happy about it.”
The rally was outside the Archimedes Russell-designed First English Lutheran Church. It’s a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which in 2009 voted to allow congregations to recognize and bless same-sex unions. First English Lutheran, which calls itself a welcoming church, hosted the CNY Pride Interfaith Service on June 16.
Rev. A.J. Striffler, First Lutheran’s pastor, quoted what he called “amazing words” from the Supreme Court ruling: “Marriage embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family.” The ruling, Striffler said, “recognizes gays and lesbians as full citizens of this land.”
The Rev. Peter Williams, a former Catholic priest who now pastors Grace Episcopal and Holy Spirit Lutheran Church in Cortland, said it’s important for faith communities to support gays and lesbians. “People are still being killed for being gay,” he said. “It’s important for people to know we support human rights for all people.”
While reveling in the day’s news, speakers noted work toward equality continues. They described battles ahead in housing and employment discrimination. The next target, they said, is to get New York’s Legislature to pass GENDA (Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act), which would expand the state’s hate law to explicitly include crimes against transgender people. Syracuse passed its own GENDA law in 2012. The state Assembly has passed GENDA eight times; the Senate has never voted on it.
“The world still needs some change,” said Kim Dill, executive director of Upstate SAGE, which supports older LGBTQ Central New Yorkers. “Who’s going to change it? You and I, like we made today possible.”