I'm sitting on the tarmac at the San Francisco airport when the New York Times reports that Edith Windsor has died at 88. It was her landmark case, a fight to keep ownership of her home following the death of her partner of 40 years—unmarried couples aren't exempt from estate taxes—that led to the 2013 Supreme Court decision granting same-sex unions federal recognition and benefits. United States v. Windsor paved the way for the Obergefell case two years later, in which a majority held that same-sex couples not only deserved benefits, but had a constitutional right to wed anywhere in the country.
Same-sex marriage is an issue that has moved from the fringes to the mainstream with remarkable speed, ushered forward by a generation of politically active and socially conscious Millennials who celebrate diversity and inclusion. With each successive generation, according to a study in the journal Social Forces authored by the American psychologist Jean M. Twenge, Americans have grown increasingly tolerant of lifestyles different from their own.
Driven, in part, by generational change, 62 percent of Americans expressed support for same-sex marriage in June of 2017, the most since the Pew Research Center began polling on this issue. (That number was just 35 percent in 2001, and 42 percent in 2010, the year Windsor sued the federal government.)
But while the issue continues to inch toward complete acceptance here in the U.S., many around the world still face the threat of imprisonment—and even death—for not hiding who they are. This month, we share several new portraits from Robin Hammond's Where Love Is Illegal project, which uses photography to fight ongoing stigmatization of the LGBT community. Love has taken Hammond, an award-winning photojournalist, around the world, to a number of the dozens of countries where homosexuality is still criminalized.
Decades of social science research point to the importance of visibility in furthering acceptance, a finding perhaps best expressed in 2008's Milk, when Sean Penn, playing Harvey Milk—the first openly gay elected official in the history of California—encourages others to come out of the closet: "They'll vote for us two to one if they know one of us."
Hammond knows this. His career has been dedicated to documenting human rights issues. More than a photographer simply capturing his surroundings, Hammond describes Love as an artistic collaboration. His subjects choose their own clothing and poses. And they write their own stories, excerpts of which can be found in our collection. This approach aims to amplify the voices of those who are traditionally silenced. It allows us to get to know them.