DOMA Struck Down: Celebrating Today’s Victory While Looking Ahead

By Kaylia Metcalfe

In a move that pleased LGBT groups across the country, on June 26, 2013, the US Supreme Court struck down (in a 5 to 4 vote) a key part of DOMA (The 1996 Defense Of Marriage Act).

What this doesn’t mean is that the Federal Government as well as states where same sex marriage isn’t legal, must respect and acknowledge marriage from states where same sex marriage is legal. What it does mean, is that over 1,100 benefits from the federal government to married heterosexual couples are now attainable by same sex married couples as well.

And speaking of the 12 states where same sex marriage is legal… California is back on that list thanks to the other big decision by the Supreme Court this morning (again in a 5-4 split). The high court ruled that supporters of Prop 8 had no legal standing to oppose the ruling by Judge Vaughn Walker who had previously ruled that the proposition, which said that marriages could only be between opposite sex couples, was unconstitutional.

1 Supreme Court 1What this means is that the California Federal Court ruling against Prop 8 stands. Analysts estimate that by mid-July, gay couples will once again be able to obtain marriage licenses anywhere in California. However, this is a narrow scope… the Supreme Court’s decision leaves the ban of same sex marriage in other states intact. In other words, we have a lot to celebrate, but we still have work to do.

The work ahead was a key theme at tonight’s rally at City Hall. With speakers from the LGBT community as well as straight allies, the event brought together groups and citizens from all over the Valley. In the heat, in the limited shade, an estimated 300+ people gathered, waved rainbow flags, and breathed a collective sigh of relief. For those who came out to celebrate tonight’s event was cathartic.

Mothers Jen and Maria brought their three sons (almost 12, almost 9, and barely 7) to the event “They know all about it,” Jen said with pride, “We talk about what it {DOMA’s repeal] means, we talk about bullying.” For this family, the difference between being domestic partners, which they have been registered as for over a year, and being legally married spouses is not just an emotional thing, but a financial one as well. Because of current restrictions in health insurance, both mothers had to pay out of pocket for coverage for their boys. “It’s $1000 a month, but not anymore.” said Maria.  “We’re so happy that our family is equal now.”

1 Supreme court 2Other participants had similar reactions:

“It’s about time!” (Leon V)

“I’m so proud to support my dad!” (Sierra W)

“I’m just so thankful!” (Della C)

“Thank God, thank the justices!” (Jake M)

Another couple, Tricia and Nicole P. were eager to take their turn on the stage during the open mic portion of the event, “We’ve been waiting a long time for it to be legal, not those other lesser things. Now we can, now we are legal!”

A highlight of the event came from City Councilman Oliver Baines who stirred the crowd with an upbeat excited speech that highlighted not only the work still ahead but the cause to celebrate the here and now. “I’m here,” he told the audience, “The Mayor doesn’t sign proclamations. But I sign them. The Mayor isn’t here, But I am. I’m here to celebrate with you!”

“Run for mayor” a gentleman called out from the front row, and a cheer went up in the crowd.

“This is huge,” said Matt G, a local resident, “We can only hope that what happened today leads down a path for all the other states. 2/3rds of the American people still live in places where we are discriminated against. We have to work to change that.”

1 Supreme court 3The ACLU has already called for LGBT groups to vow to continue the fight with a goal of attaining country wide legality for same sex marriage in five years. But no matter what the future holds, one thing is clear: today was a broad victory for civil rights

For a more detailed look at what today’s ruling mean, visit the ACLU’s fact page. https://www.aclunc.org/issues/lgbt/faq_-_marriage_for_same-sex_couples_in_california.shtml

*****

Kaylia Metcalfe is a writer, blogger and activist in Fresno. She is a cofounder of Skeptics Without a Cause and serves on the Gay Central Valley Board of Directors. Her short story collection “Links” is available on amazon.com. Contact her at kayliametcalfe@gmail.com.

  • Mike Rhodes is the executive director of theCommunity Alliance newspaper and author of the book Dispatches from the War Zone, about homelessness in Fresno. www.mikerhodes.us is his website. Contact him at mikerhodes@comcast.net.

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