The lead plaintiff in the recently successful U.S. Supreme Court same-sex case, Jim Obergefell, will be the grand marshal at the Charleston Pride festival's August 1 gay pride parade, according to Chase Glenn, an event organizer. Obergefell will also speak at the fest.
Earlier today, in a 5-4 decision the Supreme Court announced that gay marriages would be recognized in all 50 states and by the federal government, meaning Obergefell's name will be placed alongside the Browns and Roes of the world. In the meantime, he has already become a leading figure in the gay rights movement.
"Jim is a historic thinker in the marriage equality fight," Glenn said. "Jim's last name is going to be in the history books. It's important for us as a community to be aware of the path he's taken."
Obergefell said in a statement issued through the Human Rights Campaign, a Washington, D.C.-based civil rights advocacy group, that the victory was huge but there was more work to be done.
"Thanks to the Supreme Court, a period of deep injustice in this nation is coming to a close, but it's also clear today that there is still so much work to do," he said. "As long as discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people is tolerated — whether in the seeking of a marriage license, the pursuit of fairness on the job, or the fight for equal treatment at a restaurant or business — we haven't truly guaranteed equal justice under the law. But today's victory proves that anything is possible, and I could not be more hopeful about the capacity of this country to change for the better."
The Human Rights Campaign is sponsoring Obergefell's appearance in Charleston. Obergefell has said in media reports that he is an unlikely name for the history books, as he was simply seeking recognition of his marriage on his partner's death certificate when he filed the lawsuit in 2013.
When it comes to the issue of gay equality, South Carolina is behind many other states. A HRC scorecard shows that the Palmetto State has little to no protections for gay or transgender people. For example, South Carolina has no non-discrimination protection at the statewide level, which applies to housing, workplace, public accommodations, or bullying in schools. There aren't federal protections either, although some cities have passed legal protections, including Charleston.
Glenn said that legalizing gay marriage is a key linchpin in the fight against discrimination, but that the push for equality should not stop there. "Lived equality is when we're able to go about our daily lives ... and experience the world as anyone would."
The Charleston Pride Festival is scheduled to run from July 25 through August 1.