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.”

He added:

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.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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