Minutes after the Supreme Court announced it had found the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, President Obama reacted to the ruling with a statement to The New York Times.
“I applaud the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act. 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,” he said.
The president directed the attorney general and cabinet staff to review and implement all federal laws and statutes that could provide benefits to same-sex married couples.
“DOMA violated the fundamentally American principles of fairness and equality,” said Edith “Edie” Windsor, plaintiff in the DOMA case, who had to pay $363,000 in inheritance taxes after her legal wife Thea Spyer passed away, even though straight spouses are exempt from such taxes. “Because of today’s Supreme Court ruling, every child born today will be able to grow up in a world without DOMA – a world where the federal government won’t discriminate against their marriages no matter who they are. I know Thea would have been so happy and proud to see how far we have come in our fight to ensure that all gay and lesbian couples are treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve.”
“This is truly a day for the history books, one that will be marked by future generations as a giant step forward along our nation’s continuing path towards equality,” said Roberta Kaplan of Paul, Weiss, who argued Windsor’s case at the Supreme Court. “DOMA was the last law on the books that mandated discrimination against gay people by the federal government simply because they are gay. The days of ‘skim milk’ or second-class marriages for gay people are now over.”
Obama also called Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin to congratulate him and Prop 8 plaintiffs Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo. The call came as Perry and Stier were speaking to Thomas Roberts live on MSNBC. The President expressed his thanks to the plaintiffs for their courage and determination in returning marriage equality to California. “We’re proud of you guys, and we’re proud to have this in California,” Obama said, according to audio that aired live on MSNBC as the president spoke by phone from aboard Air Force One en route to Senegal. “And it’s because of your leadership things are heading the right way. So you should be very proud today.”
Griffin is the former executive director of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the sole sponsor of the Prop 8 case Hollingsworth v. Perry, and was instrumental in shepherding the case through the legal system.
Senator Tammy Baldwin, the first and only openly gay senator, applauded the Court for “reaffirm[ing] our founding belief that all Americans are created equal under the law. The Court made a strong statement for equality and freedom, overturning discrimination against gay and lesbian American citizens simply because of who they love. While this is a huge step forward for our country, the fight to make America more equal does not end with a Supreme Court decision. There is more work to be done to fulfill the promise of freedom and equality for all – in which America becomes a place where every family’s love and commitment can be recognized and respected under the law.”
Not surprisingly, LGBT advocates were ecstatic over the Court’s findings. The DOMA ruling extends federal benefits to all legally married same sex couples, which range from immigration sponsorship to social security income to military spousal benefits. (It does not legalize same-sex marriage where it is now illegal.) The Prop 8 decision restores marriage equality to California and allows same-sex couples the state and federal benefits given to all married couples.
“Today’s decisions are monumental. Not only has the Supreme Court erased two of the most viciously anti-LGBT laws in our nation’s history, it has said in the clearest possible terms that no law designed to denigrate us and our families can ever be upheld under our Constitution,” said Kate Kendall, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “The Court’s decisions today have laid the foundation for full legal equality for LGBT people and our relationships, including the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in every state. We know how this story ends, and we will continue to fight until we see that day.”
“This is a joyous moment in our country’s history, thanks in large part to [DOMA case plaintiff] Edie Windsor, who fought many hard-won battles along the way to this victory,” said Michael Adams, executive director of Services and Advocacy for GLBT Seniors (SAGE). “Older lesbian and gay couples were especially hard hit by DOMA, and their health, well-being and quality of life will now be vastly improved. Congratulations to Edie, a longtime SAGE hero, on breaking down another barrier to full equality for LGBT elders.”