In 5 Years, Marriage Equality In All 50 States?
While LGBT organizations around the country lauded today's landmark rulings in favor of marriage equality, advocates also made clear that this victory is only one step in the ongoing fight for full legal recognition and equality for LGBT Americans.
The Human Rights Campaign promised to continue pushing for marriage equality in New Jersey, Hawaii, Oregon, Nevada, and other states around the nation. At a press conference outside the court in Washington, D.C., HRC president Chad Griffin encouraged activists to "set a new goal — within five years, we will bring marriage equality to all 50 states. The work of equality is far from complete."
"Today’s historic decisions put two giant cracks in the dark wall of discrimination that separates committed gay and lesbian couples from full equality,” said Griffin, who, when he was with the American Foundation for Equal Rights, brought together the bipartisan legal team of Ted Olson and David Boies that brought the Prop. 8 case to the Supreme Court. "While we celebrate the victory for Californians today, tomorrow we turn our attention to the millions of LGBT people who don’t feel the reach of these decisions. From the Rocky Mountains to the heart of the South, it’s time to push equality forward until every American can marry the person they love and all LGBT people are guaranteed equal protection under the law."
President Obama called Griffin's cell phone shortly after the ruling was announced. Calling from Air Force One, the president congratulated the two couples represented in the Prop. 8 case.
"We're proud of you guys, and we're proud to have this in California," Obama said, according to audio that aired live on MSNBC as the president spoke by phone from aboard Air Force One en route to Senegal. "And it's because of your leadership things are heading the right way. So you should be very proud today."
"The fight is by no means over," said Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented Edie Windsor in the case that struck down section 3 of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act.
The attorney who successfully argued Windsor's case before the Supreme Court celebrated her client's victory in U.S. v. Windsor, in which the court ordered the government to repay Windsor the $363,000 she was charged in taxes after the death of her wife of 44 years, Thea Spyer — taxes Windsor would not have been forced to pay if her spouse had been a man.
"This is truly a day for the history books, one that will be marked by future generations as a giant step forward along our nation's continuing path towards equality," said attorney Roberta Kaplan of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. "DOMA was the last law on the books that mandated discrimination against gay people by the federal government simply because they are gay. The days of 'skim milk' or second-class marriages for gay people are now over."
The Transgender Law Center, based in San Francisco, celebrated the decisions as well, noting that they set important precedents for other legal issues especially facing transgender Americans.
"It’s good for all of us when the government gets out of the business of using gender to decide who gets access to certain benefits," said the center's executive director, Masen Davis. "This is a tremendous victory for the entire LGBT community. We urge the state of California to act quickly to allow same-sex couples to marry again.”
“Transgender people who are in marriages that may be legally considered ‘same-sex’ can now be confident that their marriages will receive the full respect and recognition they are entitled to from the federal government,” said Ilona Turner, the legal director at the Transgender Law Center.
New York Democratic senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a staunch LGBT ally, stressed the importance of striking the unconstitutional law from federal books.
“Now that the Supreme Court has ruled DOMA is unconstitutional, Congress must do its job and get this corrosive law off the books so there is certainty for all loving committed couples across state lines," said Gillibrand in a statement. "I promise to work hard to pass the Respect for Marriage Act and finally put the discriminatory DOMA policy into the dustbin of history where it belongs."