Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Reactions to the Supreme Court’s Rulings on Marriage Equality

By Lisa Kaiser
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It’s a great day for same-sex couples and their friends and loved ones. 

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional. Seems you can’t deny federal rights to anyone, including same-sex couples.

The court also ruled that it couldn’t rule on California’s Prop 8 ballot measure, which took away marriage rights for same sex couples. It invalidated a federal court’s ruling, letting the state court’s ruling stand. Which means that marriage equality is the law of the land in California, at least.

What does this mean for Wisconsin?

Well, nothing will change immediately. The state’s shortsighted constitutional ban still stands.

But we can get rid of it, and we should.

The state Legislature will have to vote on removing it—twice—and then state voters will need to pass it via a referendum.

But Wisconsin’s LGBT community and their allies can support the legal fight to strike down state bans as unconstitutional under the U.S. Constitution. Or cases can be brought that will require states with a ban—like Wisconsin—to recognize same-sex marriages valid in other states.

I’m hoping that today’s decisions pave the way for that to happen—sooner rather than later.

I’ll keep posting reactions to the decisions on this page.

Here’s the statement from Katie Belanger, executive director of Fair Wisconsin:

“Today, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional based on equal protection and that same-sex couples legally married in a state will receive federal recognition.  The Court also remanded the Proposition 8 case due to lack of standing, allowing the lower court’s decision that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional to stand.

This is an enormous victory and a joyous day for loving, married couples and their families – and for equal justice under the law.  Today, the Supreme Court affirmed that all loving and committed couples who marry deserve equal legal respect and treatment.
DOMA’s two-tiered system for marriage was a radical departure from the way in which our country had always treated marriage.  It forced the federal government to pick and choose among marriages and discriminate against some families, creating a “gay exception” that caused pain, uncertainty, and financial harm.

For thousands of married lesbian and gay couples, today’s ruling means that they can better protect one another and their children because they will finally be included in the federal safety net.

As same-sex couples in California regain the ability to marry, Wisconsin will remain one of the last of its Midwestern neighbors without marriage equality for committed gay and lesbian couples, leaving many wondering what’s next for Wisconsin.

Wisconsin is one of many states with a constitutional amendment on the books that bans both full marriage equality and civil unions.  In order to achieve marriage equality in Wisconsin, we would need to repeal this amendment first.  This would require two consecutive legislative sessions to pass identical bills repealing the amendment and placing the question back on the ballot.  The residents of Wisconsin would then vote on a referendum to change the constitution and repeal the previous amendment that was adopted in 2006.

At that point, Wisconsin would still have more work to do to achieve marriage equality, because we also have an existing state law that defines marriage as "between 2 equal persons, a husband and wife."  After repealing the constitutional amendment, this law would also need to be changed by the legislature, to change that definition and to extend marriage equality to all people.

While marriage equality may be far on the horizon for Wisconsin, it’s a question of “when,” not “if.”  The tide is turning in Wisconsin and public opinion is changing.  From US Senator Tammy Baldwin's victory in a statewide election in which her sexual orientation was largely a non-issue, to the numerous local victories in communities across the state—Appleton to Eau Claire, Janesville to Kenosha, Manitowoc to Racine to Stevens Point, each passing domestic partner benefits for city workers—with more to come.

Fair Wisconsin has been and will continue to be there every step of the way, helping to create more inclusive communities and workplaces in Wisconsin.  These local grassroots victories for fairness show that, in spite of the legislative landscape in the capitol, public opinion is moving swiftly toward equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Wisconsinites.”

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin:

“The debate over marriage equality is about fairness – about whether gay and lesbian Americans deserve to be treated just like their family members, their friends, and their neighbors. It’s about opportunity – about whether every American gets to dream the same dreams, chase the same ambitions, and have the same shot at success. And it’s about freedom –the freedom to love, the freedom to commit, the freedom to build a family. Most of all, it’s about whether the progress our country has made will be reflected in our laws.

One thing is clear; people’s views on marriage equality are changing because they believe LGBT family members, friends, and neighbors deserve to be treated like everyone else in the United States.

Today the U.S. Supreme Court issued decisions in two historic cases that reflect the progress we have all witnessed across our country. This progress is defined by the ideal that more and more Americans want to leave to the next generation a country that is more equal, not less.

The nation’s highest court reaffirmed our founding belief that all Americans are created equal under the law. The Court made a strong statement for equality and freedom, overturning discrimination against gay and lesbian American citizens simply because of who they love.

While this is a huge step forward for our country, the fight to make America more equal does not end with a Supreme Court decision. There is more work to be done to fulfill the promise of freedom and equality for all – in which America becomes a place where every family’s love and commitment can be recognized and respected under the law.”

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison):

“I am overjoyed that the Supreme Court has come down on the side of equality, justice and love by striking down the Defense of Marriage Act,” Pocan said. “No more will thousands of loving gay and lesbian couples see their marriage ignored by the federal government, leaving them without the protections opposite-sex married couples enjoy. With 93 million Americans now living in states that recognize same-sex marriages, and 58 percent of the country in favor of marriage equality, we now have the public, the courts and the Constitution on our side.

“I am also thrilled that by dismissing the Perry case, thousands of same-sex couples and families in California can once again have their love respected under the law, and Prop 8 can once again take its rightful place in our country’s history books.

“As we celebrate this momentous occasion, we must continue to move forward and ensure all loving couples are treated as equals. While my husband Phil and I continue to wait to have our marriage recognized by both Wisconsin and Washington, I am now more confident than ever that full marriage equality is a question not of if, but when.”


Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki (Version 1.0):

Today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision, striking down a portion of the federal government’s Defense of Marriage Act, in no way changes Church teaching with regard to the sacrament of marriage.

The recognition of marriage, understood by the Catholic Church as involving one man and one woman, long precedes Christianity. But since the Church’s earliest days, Christians have professed a firm commitment to that natural and sacramental institution.

“The Supreme Court redefined our nation’s law, but it cannot redefine marriage as God created it,” said Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki. “By design, God made man and woman, uniquely in his image and to complement one another in a way that brings forth new life. Our Catholic community will continue to work to support and strengthen families.”

The Catholic Church also opposes any and all unjust discrimination against, or mistreatment of, homosexuals. Neither their personhood nor their dignity is being questioned. The heart of the question, in fact, is the defense and preservation of the public institutions and the common vision for human flourishing upon which any free and just democracy directly depends.

Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki (Version 2.0):

Today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision, striking down a portion of the federal government’s Defense of Marriage Act, in no way changes Church teaching with regard to the sacrament of marriage.

The recognition of marriage, understood by the Catholic Church as involving one man and one woman, long precedes Christianity. But since the Church’s earliest days, Christians have professed a firm commitment to that natural and sacramental institution.

“This is a sad day for the sacrament of marriage, when the U.S. Supreme Court redefines the institution as something other than what God created,” said Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki. “Marriage between a man and a woman is life-giving and is foundational to civil society. It needs to be strengthened, not redefined.” 

The Catholic Church also opposes any and all unjust discrimination against, or mistreatment of, homosexuals. Neither their personhood nor their dignity is being questioned. The heart of the question, in fact, is the defense and preservation of the public institutions and the common vision for human flourishing upon which any free and just democracy directly depends.

Bill and Hillary Clinton:

By overturning the Defense of Marriage Act, the Court recognized that discrimination towards any group holds us all back in our efforts to form a more perfect union. We are also encouraged that marriage equality may soon return to California. We applaud the hard work of the advocates who have fought so relentlessly for this day, and congratulate Edie Windsor on her historic victory.

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Milwaukee):

“Today’s decisions mark a significant moment in American history,” said Rep. Moore. “The Supreme Court sent a simple but powerful message to same-sex couples and families across this nation – that love is love. For too long, DOMA and Proposition 8 have represented the voices of LGBTQ prejudice. Today those voices were invalidated.”

Under the DOMA decision, federal benefits will now be extended to married same-sex couples. The judgment on Proposition 8 effectively returns marriage equality to the state of California.

“Same-sex marriage does not in any way undermine or degrade heterosexual marriage. The symbolic nature of this union is strengthened by every individual who commits in love, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. 
 
“I am proud the Supreme Court took a positive step towards equality. Yet, in celebrating this victory for marriage equality, we must not be complacent in our fight to recognize all same-sex marriages. As humans, we are all equal under the law. Whom a person loves should never change that.”

Julaine Appling, president of Wisconsin Family Action:

“The US Supreme Court today determined that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.  Essentially, the Court said that the federal government cannot determine for the entire country what marriage is.  The decision means that states that have redefined marriage can force the federal government to recognize their redefinition of society’s foundational institution. We disagree with this opinion.  Just as the states can decide what marriage will be, so the federal government should be able to determine what marriage will be for federal purposes.
 
“What we know is that marriage is a unique institution bringing together men and women and providing for our next generation. It is timeless and universal.  The federal government recognizing this institution is in the best interest of our states and nation, and certainly in the best interest of children. It is unfortunate the court has ruled otherwise.
 
“In the decision regarding Prop 8, the case challenging the constitutionality of California’s marriage protection
amendment, the court dismissed the case and vacated the Ninth Circuit Court’s decision.  The court determined that the plaintiffs in this case did not have standing to bring the case.  This case is now specific to California.  
 
“Our legal experts tell us that neither the DOMA decision nor the Prop 8 decision have direct bearing on Wisconsin and our Marriage Protection Amendment. Certainly there will be questions about specific situations as attorneys continue to dissect and analyze the DOMA decision in particular.  What we know is the US Supreme Court refused to redefine marriage nationally.  They are appropriately respecting the right of states to determine for themselves what marriage will be and are rightly allowing the public debate and discourse to continue on this critical issue.
 
“Wisconsin Family Action and Wisconsin Family Council will continue to aggressively promote, strengthen and preserve marriage between one man and one woman in Wisconsin because this institution is profoundly good for our communities, our state and our nation.”

State Rep. Sandy Pasch (D-Shorewood):

“I am elated that the Supreme Court today stood on the side of equality.  Striking down DOMA and dismissing Prop 8 means that couples across the country will have the equal justice they deserve, and that all families will be recognized and respected under federal law, with access to the rights and protections that the federal government provides to married couples and their children.
 
“This is a huge step forward for equality, and for love, in our country.  Unfortunately, Wisconsin will not be taking this important step with so many other states, as extreme special interests pushed forward a Constitutional amendment to exclude same-sex couples from the definition of marriage in 2006.
 
“And after a budget passed by Wisconsin Republicans that puts their extreme conservative agenda before of our state’s hard-working families – and bill after bill that restrict a woman’s ability to make personal healthcare decisions – it is clear that we will be forced to continue down this harmful, regressive path while the rest of the nation moves forward toward equality and fairness.
 
“I am so grateful that today’s important Supreme Court decisions landed on the side of fairness and progress, and I look forward to the day that Wisconsin’s government will respect all marriages equally.  Until then, I will continue to stand with families and against Wisconsin Republican’s divisive social agenda.”

State Sen. Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee):

“For all of us who have long fought for equality, this is a landmark day.  I am humbled that
each day it appears more and more of our family, friends, and neighbors across this land
accept that the benefits and responsibilities of marriage should be available to all couples. 
The court’s ruling adds to our hopes that someday all Americans, gay or straight, will be held
equal before the law."

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