Honoring Philly pioneers who led way to same-sex marriage ruling

 Jim Obergefell, Malcolm Lazin, Paul Kuntzler and Ada Bello place a wreath in front of a Philadelphia plaque honoring LBGT pioneers. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Jim Obergefell, Malcolm Lazin, Paul Kuntzler and Ada Bello place a wreath in front of a Philadelphia plaque honoring LBGT pioneers. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The man behind last week’s Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide made a stop in Center City Thursday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of some of the first gay rights demonstrations in Philadelphia.

Jim Obergefell, lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court case, participated in a ceremony at the site of the original Annual Reminders protests.

Obergefell said Philadelphia’s demonstrators of the ’60s help spearhead the modern LGBT movement.

“Everything necessary to file our case would have never happened without pioneers, such as here in Philadelphia. They set the stage,” Obergefell said. “They laid the groundwork, and I know that I stand on their shoulders. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be here.”

Malcolm Lazin, who heads the Equality Forum, stood by Obergefell and described the important legacy left by the 40 original Annual Reminders demonstrators.

Before hanging the rainbow-colored wreath on the historical marker, Jonathan Allen of “America’s Got Talent” fame sang the Judy Garland classic “Over the Rainbow.”

Even though the group of the gay rights picketers was small, Lazin said, it represented a movement that flourished with time.

“That’s the reason why this historic marker symbolizes so much, and without what they did, we would not be celebrating today,” Lazin said. “We’d be celebrating sometime in the future, but we would not be celebrating today same-sex marriage.”

“So, think about it. They stepped forward with every possible societal disadvantage. Most people thought we were foolish,” he said. “And today, 49 years and 51 weeks and six days later from the first of the Annual Reminders, we now have marriage equality in this country.”

Obergefell will receive the Frank Kameny award as part of the events this weekend to mark the 50th anniversary of the first demonstration. Wanda Sykes, comedian and gay rights advocate, will lead the  ceremonies.

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