A Nation Reacts: Responses to the Supreme Court Victory for Marriage Equality

After 25 years, Trinity and Desiree are finally able to get married. They carried this sign around to tell their story and explain their happiness. Photo: Alexandra Hsieh and Gautami Sharma

After 25 years, Trinity and Desiree are finally able to get married. They carried this sign around to tell their story and explain their happiness. Photo: Alexandra Hsieh and Gautami Sharma

By Claire Parker

They stand in front of San Francisco City Hall, five hours after the landmark Supreme Court decisions on Wednesday that changed their lives. They are beaming. Desiree wears purple, the color most often associated with gay rights. Trinity’s left hand rests on Desiree’s shoulder, while in her right, she holds a sign saying “The love we commit to each other must be equal.”

Trinity Ordona and Desiree Thompson have been married for 25 years. But only after today will their union stand up in a California court of law. And only after today will they receive the same legal benefits as their straight counterparts.

People throughout the nation reacted with a wide range of emotions to the Supreme Court rulings striking down the Defense of Marriage Act and effectively overturning California’s Proposition 8, opening the door to greater rights and marriage equality for same-sex couples in the United States.

“It gave us rights, which means that I will be able to get married someday, which is very happy for me,” said a young woman celebrating in San Francisco’s Castro District, who identified herself as Molly.

 

Details of the DOMA decision

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to overturn DOMA, giving legally married same-sex couples equal rights under the law, allowing them to receive the same benefits as heterosexual couples do. The Supreme Court declared DOMA unconstitutional on the grounds that the Act violates the Fifth Amendment. The due process clause of the Fifth Amendment states that “No person shall be … deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

“The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote, as reported by The New York Times. “By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.”

Kennedy was backed by liberal justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Opposing them were Chief Justice John Roberts and justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

The ruling will mean that same-sex couples can no longer be denied the legal rights granted to opposite-sex couples, such as retirement and health insurance benefits. According to the Human Rights Campaign, gay couples living in states where same-sex marriage is legal will receive full federal rights and benefits. However, it is still unclear what benefits and rights will be received by legally married gay couples who are living in states that do not recognize their unions.

Supreme Court defers to lower court on Prop 8

For California Proposition 8, the Supreme Court asserted that the appeal of the Ninth U.S. District Court of Appeals’ decision to overturn the proposition had no standing. As a result, the ruling on Proposition 8 reverts back to the district court’s decision, thus legalizing same-sex marriage in California. Same-sex couples in California can begin obtaining marriage licenses on July 21st, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Though the decision in Prop 8 was also 5-4, the justices were split differently than in the DOMA decision, with the majority opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts and backed by justices Scalia, Kagan, Breyer and Ginsburg.

 

Reaction across the nation and on social media

As news of the decisions emerged, celebrations broke out in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., City Hall in San Francisco, and across the nation. President Barack Obama, while flying to Senegal aboard Air Force One, called DOMA plaintiff Edith Windsor to congratulate her on her victory.

“I applaud the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act. This was discrimination enshrined in law. It treated loving, committed gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people,” said Obama in his statement . “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.”

Social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook experienced a huge influx of comments from people around the world on the rulings. Celebrities, such as Lady Gaga and Leonardo DiCaprio, used Twitter as an outlet to voice their support for marriage equality.

 

San Franciscans react

In San Francisco, former Mayor Gavin Newsom, who made the decision in 2004 to allow gay couples to marry, addressed a crowd at City Hall that had gathered eagerly, awaiting the rulings since early Wednesday morning. He congratulated marriage equality activists on their success, and thanked them for their hard work.

“It was a true commitment to equality that brought us here,” Newsom said in a news video published by the local ABC affiliate. “We’re not motivated by this cause of equality, we’re inspired by it, because it is a fundamental principle that defines who we are, our human dignity, our self-worth, our humanity.”

San Franciscans, especially many same-sex couples, celebrated throughout the day in the Castro District, which is famous for being a predominantly gay neighborhood and the epicenter of the gay rights movement.

Jerry Deal, dressed in a lacy white wedding dress, said the marriage equality brought about by the rulings today “affects me and it affects actually the world, because this is a step forward not just for California and for San Francisco, but for the world.

“We lead the world in what is right, and this is what’s right. Here we have the freedom to marry and the rights that everyone should have,” Deal said.

 

Opposition

Not all reactions to the rulings were positive. Opponents of same-sex marriage reacted with disappointment, and vowed to continue to fight to preserve traditional marriage laws.

“A robust national debate over marriage will continue in the public square, and it is my hope that states will define marriage as the union between one man and one woman,” said Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) in a statement released by his office. Boehner helped fund the defense of DOMA. Republican candidates in the 2016 presidential race will need to ensure that marriage remains a topic of national debate in order to be serious candidates, according to Politico.

“Any Republican who runs for president will have to support this position. He will lose in the primary if he does not. Period,” Brian Brown, the head of the National Organization for Marriage, told Politico.

In a dissenting opinion in the DOMA case, Justice Scalia expressed his view that the court had overstepped its role and boundaries. He wrote that the language used in the majority opinion overturning DOMA was too harsh.

“It is one thing for a society to elect change; it is another for a court of law to impose change by adjudging those who oppose it … enemies of the human race,” wrote Scalia.

New Jersey governor Chris Christie called the decisions “just another example of judicial supremacy.”

While some religious groups, including the National Cathedral, support same-sex marriage and today’s rulings, others expressed their dissatisfaction. Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan said “Today is a tragic day for marriage and our nation. The common good of all, especially our children, depends upon a society that strives to uphold the truth that marriage is between a man and a woman. Now is the time to redouble our efforts to witness to this truth.”

Although an array of differences in opinion on the two rulings exists, it is clear that all Americans will experience the effects of the monumental marriage equality decisions that were handed down on Wednesday. The last few decades have brought about a rapid shift in American culture and public opinion. According to a Gallup poll, in 1997 only 27 percent of Americans supported same-sex marriage, compared to 53 percent in 2013.

Alexandra Hsieh and Gautami Sharma contributed reporting.

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The Closeted Consequences of Gay Marriage

By Jeff Hara

Even though the ruling went for a close 5-4, the victory felt decisive. Everyone from A-list celebrities to President Obama threw their generous support (that is, tweets) for the Supreme Court, and it’s hard to comprehend what everything would be like had Kennedy swung for the right.

The most intriguing aspect of today’s debate over gay marriage is the lack of it. Seriously, Google all of the problems with gay marriage. You might find reports that there won’t be any backlash. Oh, and you might notice Google’s “rainbow-powered” search bar.

Have people truly become as tolerant as they say? DOMA and I were born two days apart, and over the course of a mere 16 years, America did a complete one-eighty and took down the act. Growing up in an age when Ellen DeGeneres both lost her job and jump-started her career, Modern Family portrayed a gay couple, and Chris Colfer appeared as a main character on Glee, it’s possible to build a strong case.

The alternative is that people have become superficially tolerant. Maybe people define tolerance as “having gay friends.” Maybe people define tolerance as mundanely “supporting” a cause by making an obligatory status update because everyone’s doing it. Maybe people define tolerance as changing their profile picture to an equal sign for a day. This feigned sense of solidarity is really as ephemeral and elusive as a rainbow.

Call me a pessimist, but I don’t believe that there won’t be any backlash. Not for a minute.

And if people were legitimately tolerant, why does homosexuality follow people like an extension of their name? Sexual orientations are publicized by dressing, talking, and acting stereotypically, as if displaying flamboyance will show that they’re comfortable with themselves. Orientation doesn’t dictate the pitch of your voice; biology does. If anything, these people are forced to be someone that they aren’t.

What does all of this mean for gay marriage? The fight just got a lot harder. DOMA and Prop 8 were definitive enemies of the Human Rights Campaign, the Harvey Milk Foundation, etc., etc. But now, the enemies are hidden. The new adversaries are bound by a code of secrecy that they would never give themselves up, and when gay rights activists silently lose their supporters even as the worst is yet to come, they won’t even know what hit them.

It will seem as if the fight for gay rights was easier when DOMA and Prop 8 were still on the table because they at least knew who to demonize.

It’s a story we’ve all heard before, and it’s one that we’ve tried to forget. Consider the celebrity shout-outs for Japan’s earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in 2011. Remember the music albums for the Haitian earthquake victims in 2010? People will come through but not because they care. In fact, the trend is that people care so little that they’ll support anything in the world, now that “supporting” takes a second of their time.

Is DOMA and Prop 8 a landmark case? Or is it a landmark hype?

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By The Numbers

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Politicians React To DOMA

By Christine Kim

See the Storify Here: http://storify.com/christinekm22/politicians-react-to-doma

With the past and upcoming decisions of the supreme court, politicians take a side in speaking for or against the issue of same-sex marriage through various media.

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Palo Alto on DOMA

Video by Jimin Suh & Chizobam Nwagwu

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How Far Will Love Move You?

By Eibhlin Lim San Ying and Elizabeth Sanchez

The day before, the streets of Stanford were relatively quiet as the erratic drizzle and reserved sunshine caused many to seek shelter indoors. Today the crowd is out again and the sun has dissipated the gloomy haze that previously shrouded the Missionary-style resident halls. The literary experts may call this poetic fallacy and they could be right.

After months in the Supreme Court, the Defense of Marriage Act and California Proposition Eight cases were both closed, with rulings in support of equal marriage rights. Until now, federal benefits were not extended to same-sex couples, meaning that they were excluded from the legal definition of marriage. As of today, all legally married couples will be given the same rights and, in California, will be allowed to marry.

While most in the United States are jubilant with this latest news, the subject of gay marriage remains a taboo in a number of countries around the world.

According to Ramiro Acevedo, who is from Mexico, “Gays and lesbians are prohibited in my home. They are often beaten up or ostracized. The fathers think of their sons as men and families often disown children if they find out the children are not straight. So, many gays and lesbians move to San Francisco, New York and other states where this is more acceptable by the public.”

Shuo Li, a graduate engineering student from China, concurs.  He claims that he does not hold a bias to either side. He explains that same sex marriage is not traditional in China, and that older generations tend to be less open-minded to the idea. Despite the country’s notorious beliefs, he does have a few gay and lesbian friends in the United States. Upon being asked about how the court’s ruling will affect these friends, he said, “They’ll feel happy and enjoy their lives.”

Two men from India presented an additional perspective on the issue. The British Penal Court in India is beginning to alter its beliefs and grow more towards accepting same-sex marriage. Dhanam Verma, 50, an educator from India said that “There has to be sensitivity to both sides.”

Dhanam also mentions that there are two sides to the argument: religion and human rights. Each side has powerful viewpoints which he considers equally essential to the debate.

Neelanjali Ojha, 42, who accompanied the men, resides in Singapore.

“Gay or straight, they are all human beings,” she said. “Nature made you different, but nature also made things differently.”

It took many years for California and other parts of the United States to progress this far. Some might say that America has simply dipped a toe into the water, while others might argue that this is the beginning of a dive into the deep end. Nevertheless, it is the start of something. Something remarkable. We must strive to keep our hopes up and look forward to day the where every human being is treated equally.

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Don’t Rain on the Pride Parade

By Sanika Puranik

Today, June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court made history by striking down sections of the Defense of Marriage Act and ruling ‘no standing’ on Proposition 8. Before DOMA was partially dismantled, same-sex couples in the Unites States of America were not given the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples. Proposition eight presented similar roadblocks to those seeking equality by banning same-sex marriage in California altogether.

In taking no judgment on the Prop 8 case, the Supreme Court effectively adopted the decision of the lower Sacramento County court, which had done away with Prop 8, declaring it unconstitutional and unfair toward same-sex couples. Despite minor setbacks and caveats, today is a day of enormous success and pride for the LGBT community and its supporters, and frankly, I believe it should be celebrated throughout the country not only as an achievement for marriage equality but for forward progress in general.

As we’ve seen through post Civil-War legislation regarding slavery, Cold War legislation regarding education, Muckraker laws regarding industrial corruption and even legislation regarding economic stability, societal change comes in large batches of rapid advancement. These crucial developments, I believe, are only  catalysts in what will be a decade long series of laws to fully grants same-sex couples the rights they deserve.

America has come a long way since the issue of Lesbian-Gay-Transgender-Bisexual, or LGTB, rights began. In a national poll conducted by May Gallup, 27 percent of Americans thought gay marriage should be legal in the US in 1996, a stark contrast to the 53 percent of Americans who think gay marriage should be legal in 2013 according to the same poll. But that still leaves 47 percent of a country of 313.9 million people—147.5 million people. Of course some of those inadvertently included in that number may not have participated in the survey or may be indifferent to the cause, but those who feel strongly against same-sex marriage have insisted on raining on the beautiful pride parade marching across the nation. After all, haters will hate.

Several Republican leaders have expressed distaste and disappointment with the Supreme Court’s decisions today. Michele Bachmann, a Republican member of the House of Representatives from Minnesota and former presidential candidate, wrote that “Marriage was created by the hand of God. No man, not even a Supreme Court, can undo what a holy God has instituted …What the Court has done will undermine the best interest of children and the best interests of the United States.” Notoriously conservative talker Rush Limbaugh chimed in saying it represented “the disintegration of the United States.”

Take a moment to reread that and let its absurdity set in. Personally, I cannot see how extending marriage equality to more citizens in the United States undermines the best interest of the country, a country founded on the principles of equality and right to the pursuit of happiness. If anything, it helps to United States strive to be the country it promises to be: free and equal for all. Eventually Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi had the last laugh when a reporter asked for her thoughts on Bachmann’s message to which she responded with an eye roll and a frank, “Who cares?” Because, really, on a day when history is made, who does?

Other Republican leaders have taken a far more liberal approach—no pun intended—to addressing their disappointment. John Boehner, the Republican Speaker of the House who spent millions advocating against same-sex marriage, expressed disappointment, but recognized the system of checks and balances that gives the Supreme Court the final say in such decisions.

Similarly, Republican Senator John Cornyn from Texas and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, of Virginia, expressed hope that the states will define marriage in the most conservative fashion, but also acknowledged the Supreme Court’s power.

“Like it or not, the Supreme Court is the final word on constitutional matters,” Cornyn said in an interview with CNN.

For the most part, Republican leaders have kept quiet about the recent developments in same-sex equality, and I can’t help but wonder if their silence speaks louder than words.

Organizations such as the American Family Association have also issued remarks deriding the Supreme Court’s decision: “Now, we must warn against … and change the thoughts and convictions of Americans to accept this lifestyle as the new normal,” Tim Wildmon, the organization’s president, said.

Interestingly, NBC aired a new family comedy sitcom called “The New Normal” in 2012 which featured a family supported by two gay fathers. Other popular series such as “Modern Family,” “Glee,” “30 Rock,” and “House of Lies” all feature LGBT characters and rank among the most well-loved and critically acclaimed shows in television history.

Infamous for racial and homophobic slurs among other appalling activity, the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas has posted several tweets using hashtags such as #FagsRuleAmerica, #AmericaIsDoomed and #FoolishMortals as well as posts referring to the Supreme Court Justices as “black-robed and black-hearted”—yet another inappropriate and offensive reaction to the ruling.

On the road to full marriage equality, I recognize that not everyone will agree on same-sex marriage. I have family members who have a very traditional and conservative view on marriage, and as a journalist and human being I have to respect that. While I do not agree with their opinions, I understand that they, too, do not agree with my beliefs and we handle our disagreements politely and respectfully, with only the occasional heated debate. However, groups like the Westboro Baptist Church seem to blaze their trails without any consideration for who might be maimed by their unnecessarily crude language and crass protesting methods. Even in disagreement, there is a line of respect that should not be crossed, yet groups like the Westboro Baptist Church have already run a marathon past that point.

All said and done, this was expected. With every decision comes its supporters but also those who wish that any one justice had voted the other way to sway the tight 5-4 decision. However close, the victory is a victory none the less for the entire LGBT community and is a monumental step in the fight for equality.

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