Rafu Wire and Staff Reports
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision Friday that recognizes same-sex marriage as legal and deems state-level bans on it unconstitutional.
The ruling in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, backed by five on the nine-justice panel, is expected to pave the way for legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide at a time when an increasing number of countries such as those in Europe allow homosexual couples to marry legally.
The country’s top court said the Constitution guarantees individuals the right to marriage and this is “true for all persons, whatever their sexual orientation.”
“This ruling is a victory for America,” President Barack Obama said, adding, “All people should be treated equally, regardless of who they are or who they love.” Obama is the first U.S. president who has backed gay marriage.
According to The Associated Press, same-sex marriage had been legalized in 36 of the 50 American states as well as the District of Columbia.
In June 2013, the Supreme Court said that homosexual couples should be granted the same rights as heterosexual couples in federal government-level systems, such as taxation and Social Security, if their state of residence recognized marriage as legal.
The earlier ruling, however, refrained from passing judgment on the legality of same-sex marriage itself.
Following are comments from Asian Pacific American elected officials and community leaders who support the court’s latest decision.
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii): “Two months ago, I joined activists from Hawaii and across the country to tell the Supreme Court that love couldn’t wait. I’m proud that the court ruled in favor of marriage equality today and that millions of Americans will be able to marry.”
Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside): “Today, the Supreme Court threw a giant wedding bouquet to gay couples everywhere by ruling that all Americans, no matter their sexual orientation, are able to receive the legal benefits that come with marriage. But more so than that, it tells LGBT Americans that they are the same as every other American and that the bliss that comes with marriage is theirs to have as well.
“This is a great day, not just for LGBT Americans who wish to get married, but for all Americans, as it makes our Union that much more perfect.
“While this is a great day of celebration, there are battles that we still must wage. We need a full, comprehensive LGBT civil rights bill and I hope Congress will hold a vote as soon as legislation is introduced.
“Today, I am more proud than ever to be an American.”
Rep. Mike Honda (D-Santa Clara): Today’s Supreme Court ruling is a cause for celebration. This day will go down as a proud one in our nation’s history — when we granted all people the right to marry and have those unions recognized across the country. Our fight for equality is far from over, but today marks a momentous occasion for people in the LGBTQ community — and for all Americans who cherish our ideals.
“Equality and freedom are what the United States were founded on, and today’s decision confirms what we know to be true: that the right to marry is a fundamental right that belongs to all. I join all of my friends in the LGBTQ community and fellow advocates in applauding the court for making the right decision.”
Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento): “It’s a historic day for equality! While I’m in Sacramento, my D.C. staff is on the ground at the Supreme Court to celebrate this win for love and justice. Justice [Anthony] Kennedy, a native Sacramentan, said it best in his majority opinion:
“‘No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.’”
Rep. Ami Bera (D-Sacramento): “Thrilled about the Supreme Court decision … What a wonderful day for our country!”
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Los Angeles): “Love wins, again!!!” said Lieu, who serves as a vice chair of the House LGBT Equality Caucus and joined 167 representatives and 44 senators in filing an amicus curiae brief for this case in support of marriage equality.
Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena): “This is an historic day for our country and our constant march towards equality. With today’s ruling making same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states, we have made official what gay, lesbian, transgender and straight couples have always known: love is love.
“No longer will children of same-sex couples have to ask why their government tells them they are not a family. No longer will same-sex spouses be denied rights and privileges at their partners’ deathbeds. This is an enormous relief.
“As we continue the march forward for equality, we must work to extinguish homophobia and discrimination from our communities and create stronger federal protections for same-sex couples. I pledge to continue this fight to make America live up to our promise of equality for all.”
Rep. Mark Takai (D-Hawaii): “The Supreme Court’s historic ruling reaffirms the fact that all citizens of our country should be afforded the same freedoms and rights granted by the Constitution. I am proud to represent a state that has already committed itself to protecting the rights of its people to be with the person they love. Today’s ruling marks a tremendous step forward for the LGBT community and for our nation as well.”
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii): “I applaud the Supreme Court’s ruling today. Some countries in the world are theocracies. Fortunately, the United States of America is not one of them. Therefore, as long as the government is involved in marriage, it must do so with fairness — treating all Americans equally. Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court is an important victory to this end.”
Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.): “I am so proud that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of love, commitment and equality.”
Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.): “The Supreme Court decision today is a great victory for equality. All couples should have the right to marry and now they do!”
Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco): “I will never forget this morning’s celebration of today’s Supreme Court decision with hundreds of San Franciscans in front of our City Hall. It was truly humbling to stand on the steps of City Hall with San Francisco leaders in the movement for marriage equality who helped make this historic moment a reality: from then-Mayor Gavin Newsom and City Assessor Mabel Teng, who began issuing the first marriage licenses in 2004, to Kate Kendall from The National Center for Lesbian Rights, who has been absolutely instrumental in leading this fight in the courts, to City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who defended our city’s actions, to Sen. Mark Leno, who led the equality fight in the California legislature, to my friends Stuart Gaffney and John Lewis, who were plaintiffs in the historic California legal case for equality, and many more.
“While there is still so much more work to be done in the struggle for equality, today represents a tremendous civil rights victory for the millions of Americans who now have the right to love and marry whomever they want. I look forward to continuing the celebrations all weekend long. Happy Pride!”
Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco): “What a way to start off the Pride weekend! SCOTUS says equality for all for same sex couples! We will be celebrating all weekend.”
Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino): “The U.S. Supreme Court ruling is a victory and celebration for all who stand for equal justice and equal opportunity. The California Supreme Court has already allowed same-sex marriage in our state, and this morning’s ruling just reaffirms the hope and promise that all people could marry. This is a great day in the country and today, we stand on the right side of history. Love is love.”
Former Assemblymember Mariko Yamada (D-Davis): “The long, agonizing wait for marriage equality is now the law of the land. A glorious day to be immersed in the history of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement @ this National Museum in Memphis. But while we celebrate today, we know all too well from history that while we should be happy, we cannot be content.”
San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee: “In our nation’s long and still-unfinished journey, there are but a few great leaps that bring us closer to the true fulfillment of the words and ideals enshrined in our Constitution. Today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to protect millions of loving families and parents and to guarantee marriage equality for EVERY American in EVERY state is truly a historic advance. This is equality without exception, and a great victory for the civil rights of every American.
“More than a decade ago, then-Mayor Gavin Newsom took a courageous stand against marriage discrimination in San Francisco, marrying Phyllis Lyon and her late partner Del Martin, who for decades inspired so many with their love and commitment to marriage equality. We see that arc of history bend from that historic day to this one. Our city will always be grateful for the incredible efforts of all those who worked for years on the path toward marriage equality with thousands of loving same sex couples marrying under our City Hall dome and across our entire state, and now in every state in our Union.
“Today will forever mark a historic milestone on this long journey as we fulfill the promise of equal protection under the law for every American that is enshrined in our Constitution. But we must not relent in our fight for equality for all with hope and love against ignorance and discrimination.”
Mia Frances Yamamoto, Los Angeles criminal defense attorney and LGBT rights advocate: “One more milestone on the long road to freedom is one more victory in the continuing battle for equality. Many thanks to the multitudes of men and women who have fought so hard and sacrificed so much to bring us to this day.”
Marsha Aizumi, author of “Two Spirits, One Heart: A Mother, Her Transgender Son, and Their Journey to Love and Acceptance”: “I am thrilled to celebrate this historic event affirming that love is love and that it is no longer gay marriage but just marriage. I hope this decision will help Nikkei and API families openly support, accept and love their LGBT children and family members because the courts now says in this aspect of their lives they are equal under the law. We still have more work to do in other areas, but what an amazing decision today.”
Actor/activist George Takei: “Oh happy day! The Supreme Court has ruled 5-4 tha marriage equality is the law of the United States. Yes, ALL of these United States. I have waited decades for this day, and my heart is full of joy and my eyes wet with tears. Let the celebrations begin, and may the happy couples live long and prosper together.”
Japanese American Citizens League: “JACL applauds the Supreme Court’s recognition of marriage equality today in the landmark case Obergefell v. Hodges. In 1994, the Japanese American Citizens League was one of the first national organizations to endorse same-sex marriage. During its debate over 20 years ago, JACL advocates on this issue spoke about the need to secure the rights of all Americans in a fair and equal manner.
“Noted JACL member and then-Congressman Norman Mineta addressed the delegates at the JACL National Convention in Salt Lake City, saying, ‘Doing what is right is often controversial. Doing what is just is often unpopular. But if we are to remain a viable voice in the national civil rights movement, we cannot back away from our commitments simply because this issue is difficult.’
“Since that time, JACL has signed onto multiple amicus briefs as supportive of eliminating same-sex marriage bans, including Obergefell v. Hodges, the case that the Supreme Court decided today. In a 5-4 decision, the court held that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage. The majority opinion stated in part, ‘No union is more profound than marriage … It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage … They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.’
“JACL applauds the court’s recognition of marriage equality that now allows same-sex couples equal access to benefits that have long been denied to them, including: health care decision-making rights, spousal Social Security, joint adoption of children, and veteran spousal benefits. As the nation’s oldest and largest Asian American civil rights organization, JACL continues to support full equality for LGBTQ individuals, including the fight against discrimination.”
Asian Americans Advancing Justice: “As civil rights organizations, Advancing Justice is thrilled that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled for equality and justice today,” said Stewart Kwoh, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles, on behalf of Asian Americans Advancing Justice affiliates. “The Obergefell decision follows the important path blazed 48 years ago by the Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia, where it struck a death blow to discriminatory marriage laws that targeted not just African Americans but also Asian Americans.
“While the work for full equality is far from over, we applaud the Court for extending marriage equality to our LGBT brothers and sisters. We hope state officials move swiftly to implement this constitutional right and the Court’s command in the 13 states with existing marriage bans.”
Asian Americans Advancing Justice also applauds the court’s decision because the decision affects many members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. According to the Williams Institute, an estimated 325,000 AAPI adults in the U.S. identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Today’s decision will likely have a profound impact on nearly 33,000 AAPI LGBT individuals who are in same-sex relationships, of which more than a quarter are raising children.
OCA-Asian Pacific American Advocates: “Attaining marriage equality has been one of the greatest civil rights struggles of our time,” said Ken Lee, OCA chief executive officer. “LGBT couples deserve the right to be married, to be loved, and to be happy the same as any other American, and we applaud the Supreme Court for boldly deciding in favor of equality and against bigotry. It has taken the blood, sweat, and tears of thousands of advocates over decades of struggle for this moment, and OCA is proud to have been a part of it. The LGBT movement deserves every ounce of celebration of this victory in the midst of Pride Month.
“So much progress towards equality has happened in such a short time, and yet the fight is not over. Though we have seen a sea change in public opinion about same-sex marriage, we have yet to see a society that fully accepts LGBT individuals. There has been resistance to implementation of same-sex marriage legalization in many states and we must closely monitor local precincts to make sure they are in compliance. There are still state laws that allow businesses and employers to discriminate against individuals simply for their sexual preference.
“Most importantly, there are still LGBT children being shamed for who they are. Until we reach a point in our society when we are fully accepting of all persons, no matter their color, creed, or sexual orientation, we must keep striving for a more equal and just society.
“This ruling represents the most recent development in a long fought battle for marriage equality. It was not so long ago that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders could not marry who they loved in certain states, until the Supreme Court ruled in Loving v. Virginia in 1967 that anti-miscegenation laws were unconstitutional.”
“This decision should mark the end of the gay marriage debate. Henceforth, in this nation, we have only marriage: an enduring commitment made by two consenting adults,” said Michael W. Kwan, OCA national president. “As Justice Anthony Kennedy so eloquently stated, ‘No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family.’ Now we can celebrate the fact that our LGBT friends and family members will not be denied the opportunity to share this highest ideal.”
API Equality-LA: “Congratulations to the plaintiffs and attorneys who brought these cases and won this landmark decision and to everyone for many years of dedicated, hard work to advance equality!!!
“As an API community, this victory builds on the legacy of our community’s triumph over historic discrimination, second-class citizenship and anti-miscegenation laws, as we move ever closer to full equality for all.
“Tonight, API Equality-LA will join with L.A. and West Hollywood city leaders and over 35 allied organizations in a rally to celebrate this tremendous victory for the LGBT community.”