Marriage Equality USA Celebrates 20 Years With a “Thank You”

Marriage Equality USA executive director Brian Silva speaks against a background showing successful DOMA plaintiff Edie Windsor. | DONNA ACETO

Marriage Equality USA executive director Brian Silva speaks against a background showing successful DOMA plaintiff Edie Windsor. | DONNA ACETO

PHOTO ESSAY BY DONNA ACETO | Having achieved its mission last June at the United States Supreme Court, Marriage Equality USA is in the process of carrying out a formal “sunsetting.” But the group is not exiting the stage without a series of thank-you celebrations around the country to recognize the contributions of volunteers, advocates, and plaintiffs who –– over the past 20 years –– made the progress achieved by the movement possible.

Cathy and Sheila Marino-Thomas and Ron Zacchi, who have been leaders on the MEUSA scene for most of the past two decades. | DONNA ACETO

Cathy and Sheila Marino-Thomas and Ron Zacchi, who have been leaders on the MEUSA scene for most of the past two decades. | DONNA ACETO

At an April 26 gathering at the LGBT Community Center, executive director Brian Silva was joined by longstanding leaders of the group, including Cathy Marino-Thomas and Ron Zacchi, in recalling two decades of activism, the earliest years of which were guided by pioneering voices who often worked largely without the support of the community’s largest advocacy groups.

Robert Talmas (l.) and his husband Joseph Vitale (second from r.), who were among the plaintiffs in the Ohio marriage case that was victorious last June at the Supreme Court, and Robert Voorheis (second from l.) and his husband Michael Sabatino, long-time MEUSA activists who were among the plaintiffs in New York's marriage equality lawsuit. | DONNA ACETO

Robert Talmas (l.) and his husband Joseph Vitale (second from r.), who were among the plaintiffs in the Ohio marriage case that was victorious last June at the Supreme Court, and Robert Voorheis (second from l.) and his husband Michael Sabatino, long-time MEUSA activists who were among the plaintiffs in New York's marriage equality lawsuit. | DONNA ACETO

MEUSA is currently compiling an archive of documentary evidence and photographs chronicling the history of a movement that many observers agree changed America more profoundly and faster than most social justice movements in US history have managed.

State Supreme Court Justice Doris Ling-Cohan (l.) with Jo-Ann Shain and her wife Mary Jo Kennedy, two of the marriage plaintiffs for whom Ling-Cohan ruled in 2005. | DONNA ACETO

State Supreme Court Justice Doris Ling-Cohan (l.) with Jo-Ann Shain and her wife Mary Jo Kennedy, two of the marriage plaintiffs for whom Ling-Cohan ruled in 2005. | DONNA ACETO

An original copy of Justice Ling-Cohan's February 2005 decision. | DONNA ACETO

An original copy of Justice Ling-Cohan's February 2005 decision. | DONNA ACETO

One local artifact that New Yorkers will prize is an original copy of New York Supreme Court Justice Doris Ling-Cohan’s 2005 ruling that recognized a right to marry under the State Constitution. Her decision was appealed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer –– and reversed by the State Court of Appeals in July 2006. Though it would be five more years until New York embraced marriage equality, Ling-Cohan’s reasoning was cited in successful cases nationwide in the years that followed. –– Paul Schindler contributed reporting.

Alphonso David, an attorney who is counsel to Governor Andrew Cuomo and was a pivotal player in the successful 2011 push to enact marriage equality in the Legislature. | DONNA ACETO

Alphonso David, an attorney who is counsel to Governor Andrew Cuomo and was a pivotal player in the successful 2011 push to enact marriage equality in the Legislature. | DONNA ACETO

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer at the April 26 celebration. | DONNA ACETO

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer at the April 26 celebration. | DONNA ACETO

Brian Silva and Cathy Marino-Thomas celebrating. | DONNA ACETO

Brian Silva and Cathy Marino-Thomas celebrating. | DONNA ACETO

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