President Obama summed up society's evolving attitudes after the Supreme Court issued historic rulings advancing the cause of gay marriage on Wednesday: “Love is Love.”
From the steps of Capitol Hill to the Stonewall Inn—the birthplace of the gay rights movement in New York City—to the Castro district in San Francisco, to South Beach, millions of gay men, lesbians and their supporters are celebrating the Supreme Court’s decision. The DOMA case in particular is a sweeping victory for proponents of marriage equality.
Just moments after the nation’s highest court announced it was striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman, the commander-in-chief took to Twitter to say, “Today’s DOMA ruling is a historic step forward for #MarriageEquality. #LoveIsLove.”
The president later released a full statement applauding the court’s decision. “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.”
The 5-4 DOMA decision declared that the Clinton-era law was invalid under the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause. Now, the federal government will no longer be able to withhold tax and other benefits to gay couples who are legally married.
On California’s Prop. 8, the court, again by a 5-4 margin, ruled that the ban's defenders did not have legal standing to defend the law in court. That means a federal court’s 2010 judgment against Prop. 8 stands, effectively allowing gay marriage in the Golden State.
Edith Windsor, the 83-year-old New Yorker at the center of the case challenging the constitutionality of DOMA, was at the home of her lawyer, Roberta Kaplan. According to The New Yorker, everyone there “exploded in screams and sobs” when the ruling was announced. Windsor exclaimed “I wanna go to Stonewall right now!”
On Capitol Hill, a crowd of gay marriage supporters burst into cheers upon learning of the decision. The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington reportedly began singing the “Star Spangled Banner” on the steps of the court. Similar celebrations were reported across the country.
Cheers erupted at the Stonewall Inn, the birthplace of the modern gay-rights movement in New York City, and gay rights activists and revelers flooded the streets in San Francisco's predominately gay Castro District. Denise L. Eger, an American Reform rabbi in California, took to Facebook to ask “Who in Ca is ready to get married?,” adding “I have a portable Chupah!”
Many politicians—Democrats—immediately released statements or took to social media to express their jubilation.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay U.S. senator, said the court’s decisions represent a “huge step forward for our country” and reaffirm that all Americans are created equal under the law. The Wisconsin lawmaker added, “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." She noted there’s “more work to be done to fulfill the promise of freedom and equality for all.”
Gavin Newsom, California’s lieutenant governor, tweeted “Love rules the day.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said it was a “historic day for equality in America,” adding “With today's decision, tens of thousands of gay and lesbian couples now have the certainty of knowing that the decision about whether to get married is solely between them and the person they love—and not the federal government.”
A slew of other lawmakers, including Democratic Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, and more, praised the decision.
There was some Republican criticism of the court’s decision, but it paled in comparison to the overwhelming support—perhaps an indication that lawmakers do not want to stand on the wrong side of history. According to an NBC/WSJ poll from April, 53% of Americans favored allowing gay and lesbian couples to enter into same-sex marriages. That’s up significantly from the 30% in 2004 and 41% in 2009.
That didn’t stop Republican Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann from releasing a statement saying “Marriage was created by the hand of God. No man, not even a Supreme Court, can undo what a holy God has instituted.”
Former Arkansas governor, and failed Republican presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee tweeted, “My thoughts on the SCOTUS ruling that determined that same sex marriage is okay: ‘Jesus wept’”
House Speaker John Boehner said he was “disappointed” in the court’s decision to strike down DOMA and suggested the fight would continue within the states.
“While I am obviously disappointed in the ruling, it is always critical that we protect our system of checks and balances,” the Ohio Republican said in a statement. “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.”