Michael Inman was bracing himself for letdown in the lead up to Friday’s Supreme Court ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges.
Inman, a third-year in marketing and president of the LGBTQ Fisher College of Business student group Out in Business, had seen advancement in marriage equality fall short before.
But he remained optimistic.
The Supreme Court ruled Friday that same-sex marriage is a protected right under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.
Winning advocates of marriage equality a long-awaited victory, the landmark decision was ruled 5-4, holding all states to recognize the unions of same-sex couples under federal law.
The majority opinions were given by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, along with Justice Anthony Kennedy, who authored the majority opinion.
“The Court now holds that same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry,” said Kennedy. “No longer may this liberty be denied to them.”
Inman’s optimism is now validated by federal law.
“I always believed we would get to this point,” he said. “I didn’t hold pessimism about the situation. I knew we were moving there. Yes, there were little hindrances along the way, but I knew we’d get there eventually.”
Inman said he was still surprised upon hearing the court’s decision on Friday, and that he felt some pessimism had grown within the LGBT community after years of waiting.
“You always hope for things like this, but you never know if it’s actually going to go that way,” he said. “So, you kind of wish for it, but you make sure you’re ready to hear ‘no.’ But then you hear the ‘yes,’ like today. I’m extremely excited.”
Inman said that surprise was coupled with the excitement that the country is now heading in a new direction toward equality, adding that he feels the court’s decision is reflective of the country’s changing views of the LGBT community.
“I think of this as a measurement of where we are as a country,” he said. “Because our movement has got enough traction and enough voices have been heard by our government to where they said, ‘OK, now it’s time to write it into law.’”
Although Inman acknowledged the decision as a victory, he said that the push to get federal policies to fully reflect equal rights is ongoing.
“I think today’s ruling gets us closer to what the Constitution represents to many Americans: freedom, rights for all, equality — all across the spectrum, regardless of who you are or what you believe in,” he said. “I think it’s just a really encouraging moment in history to say, even though we still have a ways to go, we are getting close to equality for all.”
Michael Lakomy, president of the Ohio State College Democrats and a third-year in accounting, said that as a democrat, the decision was exciting and affirming evidence that policy change can come about by way of incremental advancements.
“It may seem there’s not necessarily hope for positive change, but there really is, and you can succeed,” he said. “Today is a really amazing day to celebrate that success and move forward that way.”
He added that as someone who identifies as gay, that excitement was supplemented with joy and personal relief.
“When you realize you’re gay, one of the very first things that you have to go through is reconciling the dangers and difficulties you have with having a family. ‘Am I ever going to get married? Am I ever going to be allowed to have a husband?'” he said. “I’ve been blessed in being really the first generation that’s grown up with the hope, and today is the day that stops being a hope, and starts being a reality because it’s being guaranteed as a constitutional right.”
A representative of the OSU College Republicans was unavailable for comment.
Looking ahead, Lakomy said he feels following steps should involve bipartisan work to ensure equal rights are implemented nationwide, and that the pursuit of equal rights doesn’t end at the issue of same-sex marriage.
“We’ve had to wait this long, and we’re still waiting in some parts of the country because we still have individual justices that aren’t complying,” he said. “It’s frustrating but it’s nice to know that’s it’s guaranteed. And it’s nice to start moving on to the other issues. Marriage isn’t the only issue facing LGBT people.”
Inman said he is looking forward to the expansion of equal rights as well, and as president of Out in Business, he is focused on helping to ensure those rights in the workplace.
“Even though they can get married, it doesn’t mean a boss can’t fire them because they don’t agree with the lifestyle. I think that’s the next step that’s already being worked on across the country,” he said. “It’s just making sure people aren’t discriminated for that, and people are always being measured by the quality of work people bring to the company.”
He added that marriage equality is a huge step forward in equality, but that the path to full protection of LGBT rights still has ground ahead of it.
“A law is one thing, and we are extremely grateful for that, but at the same time, you do have to be aware of perceptions, preconceived notions and just understand that you can’t change that with just one policy,” Inman said. “That’s not really how that works. You have to realize that and kind of work with it, and work at it over time.”
Inman said he feels any pessimism felt within the LGBT community that has grown from slow moving policy change is more than likely dissipating, and that questions concerning further advancement of LGBT rights in America shouldn’t be framed as if change will occur, but when.
“I think there’s a lot of optimism now,” he said.