Gays across the nation celebrated Wednesday’s landmark Supreme Court rulings that will allow same-sex marriages to resume in California and end a federal ban on legally married, same-sex couples in 12 states from receiving federal benefits.
The court, in a 5-4 ruling, invalidated a provision of the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act, that has prevented legally married same-sex couples from receiving a range of tax, health and retirement benefits that are generally available to married people. About 45 minutes later, in another 5-4 ruling, the court cleared the way for same-sex marriages to resume in California. It said the people who appealed a ruling that the Proposition 8 ban was unconstitutional did not have standing to appeal, so the Supreme Court could not decide the case.
The rulings elicited cheers and shouts erupted among a throng at San Francisco City Hall early Wednesday morning.
“My heart is so full it’s unbelievable,” said Helen Zia, 61. She and her wife, Lia Shigemura, were married in San Francisco before Prop 8.
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Hene Kelly , 71, was thrilled with the DOMA ruling. “For retired people. it’s phenomenal. If one partner dies, the other can collect Social Security,” said Kelly, a member of the California Alliance for Retired Americans.
“I’m excited. This is history. It’s the moment of a lifetime,” said Mark Para, 41, of San Francisco. He nodded towards his boyfriend, Angelo Cilia, 42, who he plans to ask to marry.
“In no way is this a small victory,” said George Zander of Palm Springs, who has been contemplating marrying Chris Freitas, his partner of 18 months. “This is a huge, monumental victory. To get this stuff to the Supreme Court was a major victory. To have these decisions with a conservative court is amazing.”
Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet said he expects the city to again become a popular spot for gay weddings.. “It definitely was good for economic development and was the right thing to do for civil rights,” he said.
Pougnet and his partner were among the same-sex couples married in California before Prop 8 was approved. He also officiated many weddings and said he’s already promised to officiate the marriage of two men who have been together for over 40 years.
Suzie Scoles and Michelle Miller are planning to marry next year. The Sartell, Minn., couple has been together 23 years. “It’s something I never expected in my lifetime. That’s what it is all about — equal rights,” MIller said.
Donna Red Wing, director of gay rights group One Iowa, called the morning’s rulings “almost surreal.”
Red Wing moved to Iowa from Colorado in 2012 to take advantage of legal same-sex marriage in the state. She and her partner, Sumitra, have been together 26 years, and will marry this September in Des Moines. “When I get married, my marriage in the eyes of the law will be like anyone else’s,” she said.
Eddie Outlaw, an outspoken member of Mississippi’s LGBT community, said he was “thrilled.”
“In our state, there’s a ban on adoption by same-sex couples,” he said. “There’s no protection from employment discrimination, housing discrimination.”
Reaction on social media was jubilant. DOMA and #Prop8 were trending topics on Twitter.
Actor George Takei, an outspoken gay rights activist perhaps best known for his role as Sulu on TV’s original Star Trek, series lauded the rulings on his Facebook page. “Today marks a watershed moment in history and a tremendous victory for the principle of equality,” he said.
The Human Rights Campaign, @HRC, a Washington-based organization that lobbies for gay rights, tweeted, “Monumental victories.”
President Obama took to Twitter, too. “Today’s DOMA ruling is a historic step forward for #MarriageEquality. #LoveIsLove,” he tweeted. It took Obama a little while to catch up to news of the decision. The Internet connection on Air Force One broke down at the key moment, said White House spokesman Jay Carney.
The president learned of the ruling via a phone call from the White House staff.
“He believes that this is a very good day for civil rights in our country and was just glad to see the decisions come down as they did,” Carney said.
The rulings did have their critics, however.
Maggie Gallagher, founder of the National Organization for Marriage, which put Prop 8 on the ballot, criticized the Supreme Court. In a written statement, Gallager said Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion “unfairly and illegitimately makes ‘custom’ and ‘tradition’ a sufficient reason to overturn the democratic branch of government — a standard which has never been applied when Congress passes new laws that affirm new leftist values.”
House Speaker John Boehner said he was “obviously disappointed.”
“It is my hope that states will define marriage as the union between one man and one woman,” he said.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called it a “tragic day for marriage and our nation.”
“The Supreme Court has dealt a profound injustice to the American people by striking down in part the federal Defense of Marriage Act,” Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, said in a statement.
The Coalition of African-American Pastors condemned the rulings, saying the court damaged laws that support traditional marriage.
“We are devastated that the Supreme Court succumbed to political pressure by voting to weaken the sacred institution,” said CAAP President William Owens. “They neglected our most precious children who need a mother and a father united in marriage for healthy development.”
“African-Americans pay a disproportionate price as collateral damage of the aggressive gay agenda, and it will take leaders across the country to resist the cultural shift on marriage,” Owens said.
Outside the Supreme Court, dozens of demonstrators massed before the rulings were issued. Most of the demonstrators appeared to be in support of gay marriage.
A line of people stood in front of the steps holding paper signs that said, “One nation under God … with liberty and justice for all,” as they chanted, “What do we want? Equality? When do we want it? Now!”
Following the court’s decisions, Washingtonian John Zangas said he was relieved that DOMA had been struck down.
“It is an evolutionary decision in the history of our country,” said Zangas, 54. “People will look back on it decades from now and wonder what took us so long.”
Zangas said the court ruling on Prop 8 should prompt more states to allow same-sex unions. “Every state should follow suit in allowing marriage because it is an inevitable conclusion to a protracted struggle for gay rights,” he said.
Another demonstrator, Larry Cirignano of Far Hills, N.J., stood surrounded by reporters and photographers with a sign reading, “Marriage = one man & one woman.”
“I’m hoping the court decides taxpayers don’t have to pay for people’s sexual decisions,” he said.
The Rev. Joe Hoffman, pastor of First United Congregational Church of Christ in Asheville, N.C., and an activist in the marriage equality effort, said he was “absolutely delighted and amazed.” at the decision. “ I am excited to see how it plays out and what it means for gay and lesbian friends that I know who have so long waited to have some equality,” he said. “This is a huge day.”
In Shreveport, LA; Adrienne Critcher, spokeswoman for People Acting for Change and Equality, a local advocacy group said the rulings were mostly positive. “I am happy DOMA was overturned, but I’m disappointed they punted on Prop. 8,” Critcher said.
The rulings come just ahead of the nation’s largest gay pride celebration in San Francisco. Parties and events begin Thursday. On Saturday, San Francisco’s Civic Center hosts a massive pride celebration with food, music, dancing and a street fair.
Sunday is the finale, the city’s 43rd annual pride march. It usually brings out more than 1 million participants and observers. “This year we’re expecting the largest crowd we’ve ever had — 1.4 million people,” said Earl Plante, CEO of San Francisco Pride, the organization that puts on the weekend’s events.
The parade marks the anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City — several nights of demonstrations at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village that began June 28, 1969. It was one of the first times that gay men and lesbians stood up to police harassment and is considered a watershed moment in the fight for gay rights in the United States.
Activists knew the ruling might come be close to pride weekend, said Stuart Gaffney,media director at Marriage Equality USA, a group pushing for gay marriage. He said he’s hoping the news will be favorable, because “it means our celebration is planned.” “We’re just going to invite a few hundred thousand of our closest friends to march down Market Street together and we’ll all celebrate the joyous news.”
Contributing: David Jackson, Natalie DiBlasio, Melanie Eversley, Stephanie Solis, Molly Vorwerck, Marlena Chertock, Alex Laughlin, Barrett Newkirk and Brett Kelman, the (CA) Desert Sun; Bill Bowman, the (NJ.) Asbury Park Press; Jess Rollins, Springfield (MO.) News-Leader; Amy Bowen, the (MN.) St. Cloud Times; Barbara Blake, Asheville (NC.) Citizen-Times; Brian Eason, (MI.) Clarion-Ledger; Jens Manuel Krogstad, the (IA.) Des Moines Register and Adam Duvernay of the (LA.) Shreveport Times.
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