Rulings on Gay Marriage Hailed as ‘Historic’

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court issued rulings Wednesday on two cases related to marriage equality. 

United States v. Windsor challenged the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), while Hollingsworth v. Perry challenged the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8. The court ruled the heart of DOMA unconstitutional, and ruled that a district court’s decision that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional remains in effect.

Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside), the first openly gay person of color in the House of Representatives, issued the following statement:

“Today is a monumental day for families across America as we take a step closer toward full equality for LGBT Americans. By striking down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act and allowing the Ninth Circuit Court ruling to stand on California’s Proposition 8, the Supreme Court has brought full legal equality to thousands of married couples across the United States and restored marriage equality in California.

“But for individuals like Edith Windsor, this victory is about more than the benefits or tax credits they will receive. It is about the federal government finally recognizing their relationships as legitimate.

“The Supreme Court also did the right thing today in their historic decision regarding California’s Proposition 8. While this ruling is the narrowest decision the justices could have made, it returns marriage equality to California and is unequivocally a step in the right direction.

“The court today is not imposing a decision on the American people, it’s merely ratifying what has already been decided in the hearts and minds of the people.

“Even with these victories, the fight for equality is not over. Many legally married couples who now reside in states that do not recognize their marriages will not receive the full benefits of DOMA’s end unless Congress takes action. Millions more LGBT Americans live in states that give no recognition to their relationships whatsoever, and we must continue to fight to end this injustice.

“I remain committed to this movement and will explore all possible options to ensure that all Americans, regardless of who they love, are treated the same under the law.”

Following are reactions from other Asian Pacific American elected officials and organizations.

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii): “This is a historic day for civil rights and marriage equality. I am heartened by the Supreme Court’s decision affirming equal protection for married gay couples under the 5th Amendment.

“The marriage equality movement has come a long way, both in Hawaii and across the country. In 1998, I was part of a small group of Hawaii leaders who spoke out against an amendment to the Hawaii Constitution that enabled legislation banning same-sex marriage.

“There are still many instances in our society where discrimination occurs – from our immigration system to workplaces across the country to states that still ban gay marriage. I will continue to join efforts to end these injustices and fight for equal treatment of all people under the law.”

Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena): “Today is a pivotal day in the fight for equality for the LGBT community. In striking down DOMA, the Supreme Court ensured that individuals will no longer face discrimination under federal laws based on whom they marry.

“Though I would have preferred to see Proposition 8 ruled unconstitutional as well, the fact is same-sex couples are free to marry their loved ones in California, and ultimately that is what is most important.

“While this is a great first step, the decisions only apply to those lucky enough to be in states that currently allow for same-sex marriages. It is clear that to truly create equality for all Americans under the law, gay and lesbian couples must be free to marry, regardless of where they live.”

Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose): “The Supreme Court ruled the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional today in a great victory for justice and equality. No longer will legally married same-sex couples in this country be treated differently from anyone else.

“As vice chair of the Congressional LGBT Caucus and as someone who lived under institutionalized discrimination myself, this is a proud and important day for the tens of thousands of married LGBT couples in this country and their families.

“And while the ruling in the Prop 8 case did not expand marriage equality nationwide, legalizing same-sex marriage in just California, I will continue to fight for our LGBT friends living in states that have banned same-sex marriage to experience this victory for themselves soon.”

Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento): “Today I join millions of Americans in expressing my pleasure with this morning’s Supreme Court decisions. Discrimination should never be the law of the land, and the court’s decisions today exemplify a bedrock of our society — the importance of ‘equal justice under the law.’

“The ruling today that the heart of DOMA is unconstitutional reaffirms what many of us already knew – that the freedom to marry is a fundamental right that should be afforded to all Americans. It means that individuals who entered into a marriage will now be guaranteed the federal rights and privileges they deserve, regardless of the gender of their spouse. 

“I am especially pleased that the Supreme Court ruled that the California district court’s decision on Proposition 8 remains in effect. As the district court had ruled Proposition 8 unconstitutional, this means that all Californians are now free to marry, and have that marriage be recognized by our great state.

“Today is a great day for the advancement of freedom and equality in our nation, our state, and the Sacramento region. While there is more work to be done to ensure that every lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender receives equal treatment under the law, the court’s decisions today brought our nation one step closer to ensuring equality for all Americans.”

Rep. Ami Bera (D-Rancho Cordova): “I’m thrilled that the Supreme Court struck down the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, and I’m overjoyed the court has returned marriage equality to Californians. This will ensure thousands of our same-sex neighbors, friends, and family members will gain the recognition and rights that they have always deserved.

“We are a stronger country when we respect and support all families, and today marks a huge step towards equality for all. I’ll continue to work to make sure all Americans are treated equally, but today, let us celebrate this incredible victory.”

Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii): “I want to congratulate everyone who has been involved in working toward marriage equality in Hawaii and across the United States.

“Today, we have established that our nation will not deny marriage rights and benefits based solely on whom one chooses to marry. DOMA has fallen, and with it, the federal government’s mistaken notion that some marriages are better than others; that two men or two women cannot love each other as deeply and as meaningfully as an opposite-sex couple. No couple needs a court to tell them that their feelings have always been real and their commitment has always been true, but today we stand as a nation and say that we are with you. At the federal level, equality is no longer a dream.

“In the case of Proposition 8, we have now reiterated that a loud majority cannot deny the legitimate rights of a committed minority. It took courage for California activists to stand up, but the simple commitment to protecting the rights of couples who want nothing more than to publicly proclaim their connection to one another was enough to stand up to the anger and prejudice that tried so hard to keep them down.

“It has been a historic day, but we still have work to do. It is time for Hawaii to join that growing chorus of voices across our nation in proclaiming that we will not tolerate discrimination in marriage. I am proud to have helped pass Hawaii’s civil unions law for the first time, which offered couples equal rights under state law. That was the best we could do at the time, but now that the federal government will recognize same-sex marriages, our state should amend its laws, end discrimination in marriage, and make marriage equality in Hawaii a reality. They can count on my support.”

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii): “I applaud the court’s decisions to uphold the constitutionally guaranteed protections and equality to which we are all entitled. Ultimately, government should have no place in the most personal aspects of our lives.  Until that day comes, all people must be treated equally under the law. The Supreme court’s ruling is welcome.”

Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.): “Today’s ruling is another important step to make sure that all Americans are treated equally. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was inherently unfair and this is a major step forward for our country. The LGBT community is entitled to the same rights afforded to everyone else and our nation will not reach its full potential until all Americans are given the opportunity to marry the individual they love.

“The Supreme Court and Congress need to grant all Americans — gay or straight — the ability to protect their partner. While I was recovering at Walter Reed after being shot down in Iraq, my husband Bryan was at my bedside every day. Not only was he offering love and support during such a difficult time, but he was also making critical decisions for me that improved my quality of life. Often, those decisions were contrary to what other family members would have decided, but as my life partner, my husband knew me better and made the correct choices for me when I could not. I support the freedom to marry because everyone deserves the same level of access, support and love.

“With this ruling, it is crucial that we recommit ourselves to providing equal access and opportunity to all Americans, whether it be in marriage, employment, or service in the military. I look forward to getting back to work in Congress, standing up for every American’s ability to achieve the American Dream.”

Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.): “The Supreme Court’s rulings on DOMA and Prop 8 are great decisions, and huge wins for marriage equality in America.

“I am proud to stand in support of equal rights for all Americans, and I cannot be happier to celebrate today’s historic decisions that finally provide same-sex couples with the equality they deserve.

“DOMA and Prop 8 were codified as legal discrimination against a particular population, and they should have never been enacted into law. People should not be told who they can marry. Love is love, period.

“I urge federal officials to grant same-sex couples with full access to federal benefits as quickly as possible, as the Supreme Court ordered today.

“I also congratulate plaintiff Edith Windsor, a trailblazing New Yorker who had the guts and determination to fight this battle all the way to the highest court in the land.

“While today’s decisions are tremendous steps forward, the majority of states still do not allow same-sex couples to get married. We must therefore continue the fight to achieve full marriage equality throughout our nation so that one day same sex marriage will be legal everywhere in America. I hope that day will come very soon.”

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.): “The Windsor v. United States and Hollingsworth v. Perry decisions represent a victory for equality. Today’s ruling in the Windsor case invalidates Sec. 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which I have opposed since it was passed in to law in 1996. The court decided that discrimination against gay and lesbian married couples cannot be upheld under the Equal Protection Clause, which prohibits discrimination when there is no rational basis for the discrimination. A law that disparages and inflicts harm on a class of citizens cannot constitute a rational basis for discrimination.

“Hollingsworth was decided on a legal technicality, but is consistent with the Windsor decision, and so the right to marry will be restored to gay and lesbian couples in California.

“It should be noted that today the court in Windsor did not rule on the constitutionality of Sec. 2 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which allows states and territories not to recognize legal marriages performed in other states. If the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution requires states to recognize marriages performed in other states, then Sec. 2 of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. If the Full Faith and Credit Clause does not require states to recognize marriages from other states, then Sec. 2 is unnecessary.

“For the reasons articulated in today’s decisions, it is my view that when the court considers the constitutionality of Sec. 2 of the Defense of Marriage Act, it will in fact require Virginia to recognize marriages from other states, even if Virginia law does not provide for same-sex marriages.”

Rep. Al Green (D-Texas): “Today, we have witnessed a significant victory in the struggle for equal rights for all. The Supreme Court acted justly in the quest for equal protection under the law as guaranteed by our Constitution. Now gay and lesbian families will benefit from numerous rights and privileges designed to strengthen and protect all American families.

 “When it comes to equal protection under the Constitution, justice for every one of us is dependent upon justice for any one of us.”

State Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco): “It’s a wonderful day for Californians who believe in equal rights for all. In 2008, Proposition 8 stripped the right to marry from LGBT citizens, while DOMA imposed an unprecedented standard that allowed states to ignore marriage contracts formed elsewhere in our nation. Today the Supreme Court has reaffirmed the fundamental ideas our nation was founded upon and taken a step towards equality and fairness.

“Now that the laws that held same sex couples apart have been found unconstitutional, we can finally live up to our creed that all people are created equal. I look forward to again officiating at weddings for all couples who wish to marry, this time knowing that their right is here to stay.”

State Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance): “Every now and then, I am reminded of the majesty of our state and federal constitutions. Today is one of those days.”

Assemblymember Mariko Yamada (D-Davis): “Today, I join with millions of Americans in applauding the Supreme Court’s affirmation of the fundamental principles of marriage equality. More importantly, the decisions issued today are a beacon of hope to all who choose to travel our country’s long road to justice. Let us all continue the fight for civil rights for all people.”

Assemblymember Paul Fong (D-Cupertino): “The U.S. Supreme Court took an important step by striking down the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. It correctly rights a wrong in our country’s history and provides for equal treatment for same sex couples under federal law. The court’s ruling guarantees equal protection to all members of our society, regardless of sexual orientation.

“Though the decision was not a universal decision on the constitutionality of same sex marriage, I am heartened that same-sex marriage can continue in the state of California. This is a historic victory but our nation’s movement for equality and justice for everyone in this country are far from over. As we move forward, we must remain committed to fight discrimination and to protect the rights of all Americans.”

Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), after officiating a City Hall wedding ceremony: “It’s wonderful. It never gets old seeing people who have loved each other for so many years finally be able to marry each other.”

California Attorney General Kamala Harris: “Today marks a great victory for freedom, equality, justice – and love. I ask that the Ninth Circuit lift its stay immediately. Gay and lesbian couples in California have waited long enough. Once the stay is lifted, marriages in California are ON. Wedding bells will ring.”

California Board of Equalization member Betty Yee: “Today’s work is not done. Time to implement marriage licenses, social security, immigration rights, and joint tax filing for same-sex couples now!”

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee: “The United States Supreme Court today has taken a historic step toward guaranteeing marriage equality for every Californian and protecting millions of California families, choosing hope and love over ignorance and discrimination.

“More than nine years ago, then-Mayor Gavin Newsom took a courageous stand against marriage discrimination in San Francisco, marrying thousands of loving couples, and there is a direct line from that historic day to this one. In the wake of today’s decision, San Francisco stands ready once again to begin marrying same-sex couples on the first day possible.

“The struggle for marriage equality and civil rights for EVERY American in every state must continue, but this day will forever mark a historic milestone on the long journey to fulfilling the promise of equal protection under the law for every American enshrined in our Constitution.

“Our city will always be grateful for the incredible efforts of those who worked for years on the path toward marriage equality and toward bringing this case before our nation’s highest court, including Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, City Attorney Dennis Herrera, Deputy City Attorney Therese Stewart, Chad Griffin and the American Foundation for Equal Rights, Kate Kendall from the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Phyllis Lyon and her late partner Del Martin, who for decades inspired so many through their love for each other and by their commitment to marriage equality.”

National Asian Pacific American Bar Association President Wendy Shiba: “Today is a historic day for our nation as we move one step closer to equality for all Americans. As a Californian, I am especially proud that NAPABA has supported marriage equality in Windsor and Perry, and in many other cases, and we look forward to the implementation of both decisions.”

JACL Executive Director Priscilla Ouchida: “When my grandfather was a young man, the federal government prohibited his marriage to an American citizen because of his race. Today’s decision is not only a victory for same-sex couples, but for every American who has experienced discrimination.”

JACL President David Lin: “We applaud the Supreme Court for a decision that affirms our nation’s values of equality and diversity.”

OCA Executive Director Tom Hayashi: “OCA is proud of the Supreme Court’s decision (on DOMA). This will provide over a thousand federal benefits to many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Asian Pacific Americans that they have been wrongfully denied. As an immigrant community, many LGBT APA couples have transnational partners. They will now have the ability to sponsor their spouse over to the United States, a very important concern for us. This decision is a incredible step forward for LGBT, APA, and immigrant civil rights.

“Although I am glad that the end result of the Supreme Court’s decision (on Prop 8) was a step forward for civil rights, I do not believe that they went far enough. If the Supreme Court had taken the case, they could have potentially paved the way to legalize same-sex marriage across all 50 states.”

OCA National President Sharon M. Wong: “There are many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Asian Pacific Americans. And every person, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, deserves to have the same equal protection and benefits under the law. This is just one step among many needed to create a better world for all of us.

“It was less than 10 years ago when there were laws in the United States that made it more or less illegal to just be gay. That we can stand here today and say that same-sex marriage is legal in the State of California is a testament to the amazing organization and work of the LGBT and APA allied communities.”

Like the country as a whole, some Asian Pacific Americans are divided on this issue along party and religious lines. Two of the GOP’s most prominent APA elected officials, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, are on record as opposing gay marriage. Proposition 8’s backers include River of Life Christian Church in Santa Clara and Great Commission Center International in South San Francisco, both Chinese American congregations that have held rallies against same-sex marriage.  

At San Francisco City Hall on June 28 (from left): Mayor Ed Lee; Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, plaintiffs in the case against Proposition 8, who were married that day; California Attorney General (and former San Francisco District Attorney) Kamala Harris, who performed the ceremony; Assemblymember Phil Ting; and San Francisco Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu.

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