How one couple's battle for marriage rights spanned two generations

    In the busy streets of Liverpool, England in 1959, when do-wop and jazz flooded the city, Arizona State University journalism professor Susan Green’s black American GI father met, fell in love with, and attempted to marry her white mother, who was a local resident of the town. 

    Unfortunately, their falling in love was just the first step in a long 50-year journey for marriage equality spanning two generations.

    “Being in love was the easy part. Taking the next step was the difficult part [for my parents],” Green said. “Being married was not easy, especially if you were a mixed race couple.”

    Green, along with her partner and fellow ASU professor Robin Phillips discussed the journey toward marriage equality through the lens of Green’s parents and then their own relationship at a discussion Wednesday night. The pair are authors of “The Marriage Battle”: a part history, part biography of how Green’s parents fought for interracial marriage laws during the Civil Rights Movement and of how Green and Phillips carried on the fight for marriage equality through the recognition of LGBT marriage today.

    Green and Phillips began their marriage advocacy in Phoenix, Arizona, where LGBT marriage was not yet legal, and continued to fight for their right to marry up until 2015, when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of LGBT marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges.

    “[Being in a civil union] just wasn’t enough," Green said. "It even got down to the point where we were filling out or taxes and we felt like we were lying when we put single. We couldn’t [file] as a married couple].”

    Green and Phillips also discussed the idea of intersectionality, since Green’s family was at the center of both interracial and LGBT marriage.

    “The story that we tell is one that we haven't heard before,” Phillips said. “We realized that we had an interesting and unique story because of the parallel between mixed race marriage and our marriage. I hope that it comes across as an interesting story told with the background being a little bit of history in America, because we talk about the legal fights and the social settings from the late 50’s until now.”

    Medill Associate Professor Douglas Foster said that learning about intersectionality is vital for student journalists seeking to document queer issues, and Green and Phillips’ personal account is an important contribution to queer literature due to its discussions of intersectionality.

    “In a place like [Northwestern] we often talk about intersectionality,” Foster said. “They are the embodiment of it. Hearing from them directly about how that story unfolded for Professor Green’s life, and what it meant for [Green and Phillips] in figuring out what their relationship would be like [is] an important personal and political story to bring to students.”

    Medill sophomore Brock Colyar, who helped organize this discussion, said that journalists like Green and Phillips have important stories to tell Northwestern concerning the queer community.

    “Medill has really been making strides lately in teaching students how to cover and report on sexual and gender minorities and this was another step in that direction,” Colyar said. "This book demonstrated ways that we can live out intersectionality at Medill and talk about not just singular issues but multiple issues at one time.”


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