Local Leaders and Advocates React to DOMA and PROP 8 Decision
The Supreme Court struck down the “Defense of Marriage Act” and dismissed California’s Proposition 8 this morning, and members of RVA LGBT and activism community held a press conference to explain what these decisions mean for Virginians. The steps of the John Marshall Court House set the stage where members of the ACLU, the Alliance for Progressive Values (APV), and various LGBT leaders spoke.
ACLU of Virginia Executive Director, Claire Gastañaga, spoke at the event and said the SCOTUS decision to strike down DOMA and Prop 8 will now provide 1,100 federal laws and benefits to same-sex couples and same-sex marriage will be reinstated in California. In what Gastañaga called a historic case, she said the rule made it “unconstitutional for the federal government to treat two couples differently just because one couple is a same-sex couple, and one is a opposite sex couple.”
The ACLU has been litigating for the freedom to marry since the 1970′s. And the national ACLU successfully argued for Edie Windsor in todays DOMA decision.
Gastañaga went on to discuss how Prop 8 sought to take away the right to marry for Californians, after it had been made legal by the state’s legislature. Meanwhile, 18,000 couples married between when the law was instated, and when the public vote, Prop 8, passed and removed that right to marry. The Federal district court said Prop 8 was unconstitutional, but a private group of citizens against same-sex marriage appealed the Federal decision. That brought the case before SCOTUS. Of course, this lead to the death of the Prop 8 appeal after the highest court dismissed the case saying the state, which didn’t seek the appeal, had to be the one to appeal the case.
Gastañaga acknowledged the win was based on this technicality. “Although if it was procedural decision, it has a subsequent effect. And we are celebrating with Californians, the reinstating of legal same-sex marriage in that state, and now for a 3rd of all americans.” With California being allowed to marry, now over 30% of Americans live in districts were same-sex marriage is legal.
Gastañaga said the ACLU was committed to continue the same-sex marriage fight until every american has the same right to marry. “We’ll be working hard in the courts, at the legislature, and at the ballot box.”
Reverend Robin Gorsline, President of People of Faith for Equality in VA spoke at the event and pointed out some of the issues same-sex couples in VA will still face. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t apply for couples living in Virginia. Now that’s the deal here, the clock is running here in Virginia. What is happening now is that we will have people who will be living in Virginia that will still have as what (Justice) Robert Ginsberg called, ‘skim milk marriages.’” Virginia currently does not recognize same-sex marriages through a constitutional ban, the Marshall Newman amendment, which was passed into law in 2006.
Dr. Reverend Robin Gorsline
The Newman amendment has caused some Virginia citizens to emigrate, believing that the Commonwealth no longer had their best interest at heart. LGBT family members were given a chance to speak during the press conference. Judd Proctor, a Virginia resident who plans to leave the state. “This is for my partner, Brian, who could not be here, because he can’t get on my health insurance here in Virginia because our marriage is not counted.” said Proctor, “It is a great day for equality, but my partner and I are planning to self-exile. The marriage amendment (Newman) can not be backed out of until 2017, and that’s if every vote goes our way and it won’t. And then you’d have to pass a vote to legalize gay marriage and who knows how long that will take?”
In a sentimental move, Richmond Circuit Court Clerk Bevel Dean made mention of how every year on Valentines Day, gay couples gather in front of the courthouse and submit applications for marriage licenses, but are turned away because of the law here in the Commonwealth. “One day I look forward to being the circuit court clerk in Virginia to issue the first marriage license to a gay or lesbian couple, and I think today we are closer to that than ever.”
While the press conference did address the fact that the Virginia LGBT community believes it still has many obstacles to overcome before being recognized as equal citizens, the general consensus from all the speakers recognized the Supreme Court ruling as a momentous event in the fight for LGBT civil rights.
Scott Price, president of the Alliance for Progressive Values quoted Martin Luther King Jr., evoking the sentiment of the civil rights movement of the 60’s, “‘The ark of the moral world is long and it bends towards justice,’ today we saw the ark of the moral world visibly bend, and I think that’s something we can all be proud of.”
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