Progressives have a lot to celebrate this morning.
In a pair of much-anticipated decisions, the United States Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” and let stand a lower court decision invalidating California’s Proposition 8, a 2008 attempt to amend California’s Constitution to outlaw civil marriages by same-sex couples.
The rulings by the Court do not make marriage equality the law of the land across the United States of America. However, the decision in Hollingsworth v. Perry is expected to result in marriage equality returning to California, and LGBT couples there and the dozen other states plus D.C. where marriage equality is legal will now be eligible for benefits under federal law thanks to the decision in Windsor, as the federal government will no longer be able to discriminate against them.
“I applaud the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act,” President Barack Obama said in a statement. “This was discrimination enshrined in law. It treated loving, committed gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people. The Supreme Court has righted that wrong, and our country is better off for it. We are a people who declared that we are all created equal – and the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”
This ruling is a victory for couples who have long fought for equal treatment under the law; for children whose parents’ marriages will now be recognized, rightly, as legitimate; for families that, at long last, will get the respect and protection they deserve; and for friends and supporters who have wanted nothing more than to see their loved ones treated fairly and have worked hard to persuade their nation to change for the better.
So we welcome today’s decision, and I’ve directed the Attorney General to work with other members of my Cabinet to review all relevant federal statutes to ensure this decision, including its implications for Federal benefits and obligations, is implemented swiftly and smoothly.
On an issue as sensitive as this, knowing that Americans hold a wide range of views based on deeply held beliefs, maintaining our nation’s commitment to religious freedom is also vital. How religious institutions define and consecrate marriage has always been up to those institutions. Nothing about this decision – which applies only to civil marriages – changes that.
The laws of our land are catching up to the fundamental truth that millions of Americans hold in our hearts: when all Americans are treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom they love, we are all more free.
This is certainly a watershed moment in the history of the American civil rights movement. We have come a long way since 1996, when Republicans passed – and President Clinton signed – legislation that required the federal government to discriminate against same-sex couples. Now all Washington couples can enjoy the rights and responsibilities that come with marriage. It is a great day.
It seems fitting that the Hollingsworth decision was handed down during my trip to California. It is wonderful to see the happy faces of so many Golden State progressives. They’ve watched as marriage equality has come to New England, Iowa, Washington, Maryland, Delaware and Minnesota while Proposition 8 has remained in effect pending appeal. Now there can be no more appeals.
“After years of struggle, the U.S. Supreme Court today has made same-sex marriage a reality in California,” said California Governor Jerry Brown. “In light of the decision, I have directed the California Department of Public Health to advise the state’s counties that they must begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in California as soon as the Ninth Circuit confirms the stay is lifted.”
California Attorney General Kamala Harris has advised Brown that county officials “can and should” be instructed to resume issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples once the 9th Circuit lifts its stay. Now that the Supreme Court has declined to revive Proposition 8, getting that stay lifted shouldn’t present a problem.
We at NPI commend the Supreme Court for its rulings in Hollingsworth and Windsor. We would have liked to see Chief Justice John Roberts’ name on the majority opinion – a 6-3 decision would have been stronger than a 5-4 decision.
Chief Justice John Roberts, one of two George W. Bush appointees, is on the wrong side of history, along with the Supreme Court’s most conservative justices – Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas.
Thankfully, Justice Anthony Kennedy – who himself has been the swing vote responsible for some pretty awful Supreme Court decisions over the last few years – feels strongly about LGBT rights and was willing to join with the Court’s four more liberal justices to create a majority against discrimination.
Windsor may not have been decided unanimously, and its outcome won’t mean marriage equality in all fifty states. But it does mean that couples in the more than one-fourth of states that have marriage equality will have their unions recognized by the federal government. And that’s a huge step forward.
A special congratulations to the legal teams that fought discrimination in the courts. This is a victory that they will long be remembered for.