Judy Rickard and Karin Bogliolo are reluctant local heroes. They just wanted to be married and live their lives in blissful happiness. For most of us, it seems like a fairly simple principle.
But like Rosa Parks, who refused to give her seat up on a bus—they had to endure the unreasoned bigotry of our national historical past.
On Sept. 18, exactly 294 years and one day after the U.S. Constitution was signed, they told their story. Married in 1996 in Vermont, their union was not recognized by the federal government. The Defense of Marriage Act, signed by President Bill Clinton as an appeasement to bigots, legalized discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community nationally.
Karin Bogliolo who is a “world citizen”—born in Germany, raised in the U.K. and a resident of France, Scotland and the United States—was barred from this nation due to legal prejudice. She is a gregarious, outspoken individual and was surprised that the United States was so backward compared to her previous homes.
Judy Rickard is a fighter with a heart. She has long been an activist for freedom and equality. Interestingly, Rickard’s cousin was the infamous Marvin Rickard, who turned his Los Gatos Christian Church into a political power base in San Jose that spearheaded opposition to LGBTQ+ rights in the late 1970s and 80s. His ironic fall from grace for sexual promiscuity is an all too familiar story among many of the most virulent evangelical leaders in our culture. While Pastor Rickard will live in infamy, his cousin Judy will be revered for generations not yet born.
Being on the right side of history is never the wrong thing to do.
Judy, as she would do her entire life, stood up to her cousin and called out his hypocrisy during those moral fights in the 1970s and 80s. Unfortunately, this community remained hostile to gay rights during that era. But Judy would never stop fighting for her and her community’s rights.
In 1996, the institutional prejudice of our nation reached a crescendo for her personally. Her book, “Torn Apart: United by Love, Divided by Law” is critically acclaimed. It tells of the hardship and heartbreak of having a long distance romance and being denied, by her own federal government, the right to be together with her spouse. A right heterosexuals have always taken for granted under the umbrella of our national Constitution, which guarantees our fundamental rights.
Along with local leaders including Wiggsy Silverstein, Ken Yeager, Congressmembers Mike Honda and Zoe Lofgren, Judy and Karin fought not only for their rights, but for others in similar circumstances, some of whom are documented in Judy’s book.
It took time and was frustrating. Finally, in 2013 the Supreme Court recognized what was long self-evident: That the state had no compelling interest in denying a fundamental right to gay couples. No more could the Marvin Rickards of the world pass laws to deny marriage to loving individuals.
Judy and Karin won, but it was not without sacrifice, courage and fortitude.
In these difficult times, it is important to remember that we have made progress over our 245 years of nationhood. Our nation has plenty of sins for which to account: Slavery, the Trail of Tears, the Chinese Exclusionary Act, the Japanese internment, Italian and Irish bigotry, discrimination of Germans, failure to allow Jews to enter our nation from Nazi Germany and a plethora of discriminatory laws, acts and injustices. But as Martin Luther King Jr. noted, the “arc of history bends toward justice.”
But we can never forget the heroes who bent that arc. Judy and Karin exemplify the very essence of Bobby Kennedy’s quote: “Each time a (person) stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, (they) send forth a tiny ripple of hope, crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
Both Judy and Karin are raging waters in our local sea of change.
San Jose History Park will soon have a link to their presentations, along with Mike Honda and Ann Ravel who both played pivotal roles in the advancement of their cause. In addition, San Jose History Park currently has a don’t miss exhibition, “Coming Out: 50 years of Queer Resistance and Resilience in Silicon Valley.”
San José Spotlight columnist Rich Robinson is a political consultant, attorney and author of “The Shadow Candidate.” His columns appear every fourth Wednesday of the month.