AspenOUT, local Democrats celebrate marriage equality |

AspenOUT, local Democrats celebrate marriage equality

Lauren Glendenning
The Aspen Times
A celebration was held at Ajax Tavern Friday night for marriage equality, sponsored by AspenOUT and The Pitkin County Democratic Party .
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times |

Friday’s Supreme Court ruling guaranteeing a Constitutional right to same-sex marriage brought with it a sense of long-overdue dignity for the Americans who fought hard — many of them for decades — for equality. The celebrations rang out from New York to San Francisco as well as in Aspen.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said AspenOUT President Kevin McNamamon.

AspenOUT, the organization that produces Aspen Gay Ski Week and donates money to LGBTQ causes, announced Friday morning that it would host an evening celebration at Ajax Tavern along with the Pitkin County Democratic Party. The subject of the invitation: Love wins, health wins, which refers to Thursday’s Affordable Care Act Supreme Court victory.

Blanca O’Leary, Democratic National Convention member-at-large and former chairwoman of the Pitkin County Democratic Party, said she was elated over Friday’s same-sex marriage ruling and Thursday’s Affordable Care Act ruling, as well.

“I’m just numb with happiness,” O’Leary said. “I was working to get Obama elected since 2007. For me and for so many of my friends, this validated all the hours and hours and hours of volunteer work and a lot of the times when it didn’t work our way.”

O’Leary called McNamamon at 8:30 Friday morning to ask him about co-hosting the Friday evening party. In a socially progressive place such as Aspen, she wanted to bring as many folks as possible together for the celebration.

“This is the last version of civil rights that hasn’t been covered,” O’Leary said. “It’s historical for everybody to be living in these wonderful times, and it will really seal the legacy for the president.”

Aspen Skiing Co. signed an amicus curiae brief along with 378 other companies in the United States in March, urging justices to consider affirming a uniform principle that all couples share in the right to marry. Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle said via email Friday that the decision was a long time coming.

“We’re very pleased with today’s Supreme Court decision and feel this is a historic step for the rights of American citizens,” he said. “We signed the amicus brief in March because we felt that this was the right thing to do. In fact, this was long overdue. And there is reason to celebrate today.”

Skico President and CEO Mike Kaplan said in March when the brief was submitted that Skico participated because marriage equality is a pressing business issue and ethical issue.

“Our guiding principles say we want to treat others as they’d like to be treated. This is one way to do that for the benefit of our guests, our employees and the community at large,” Kaplan said.

It’s that kind of public opinion and influence that has driven the Supreme Court’s decision, McNamamon said. And the decision hit close to home because many of the organizations that have lobbied hard for it are organizations that Aspen Gay Ski Week have supported throughout the years.

“There have been many different legal groups and agencies that have fought for this in court and have been leading the way, and we’re grateful for them,” he said.

The battle might not be over — McNamamon expects the next frontier to be discrimination issues in school and in the workplace as well as transgender equality — but this is a major step, he said.

“This decision, this 5-4 decision, gives us the respect and the same rights that all of Americans have,” he said. “Previously, we didn’t have the dignity and respect because people were able to discriminate against us. And now, that’s not the case — at least in marriage equality.”