SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — For the past 10 years, John Lewis and Stuart Gaffney have lead lectures on LGBTQ +struggles and successes in Japan as well as other countries.
“Here in Japan, there are no laws,” Lewis explained.
On Feb. 12, 2004, the couple was one of first same sex couples to get married in San Francisco, when then Mayor Gavin Newsom made his landmark move.
“SF was a beacon that day for so many. It was radical and revolutionary,” said Lewis.
The couple was also one of the hundreds to see their marriage nullified when then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger accused Newsom of overstepping his boundaries and the state filed a lawsuit wiping out same sex marriages.
“We lived out the moment and we lived to see a better day, full equality for all,” Gaffney said.
Those challenges ultimately lead to years of legal battles. Victories started to trickle in. In 2015, the United States Supreme Court historically ruled in favor of same sex marriages, and in 2022, the United States Congress voted to codify same sex marriages.
“Pride started as a movement, and to honor and celebrate to fortify us to keep going,” Lewis said.
In 2023, the fight for LGBTQ+ rights is far from over. Just recently, Target found itself facing a controversy and backlash as the CFO announced some stores would pull their Pride merchandise after feedback from some customers specifically zeroing in on transgender items. At least 18 states have laws barring gender affirming medical care.
“It is a very big issue, and we need to focus on all of that,” said Lewis. “We need to make sure they know they are supported, and we support you, we see you.”
The couple have taken their cause international, to Japan and other countries.
“This is a global movement, our stories from 2004 are very relevant as Americans it resonates around the word,” Lewis said.
Whether in the Bay Area, or thousands of miles away, they say the message years ago remains the same today for the couple.
“It is a human rights issue, equality, that’s all and that’s what this is all about,” said Gaffney.