PI Original Ellyn Fortino Friday June 26th, 2015, 6:08pm

SCOTUS Same-Sex Marriage Ruling A Victory, But Fight For Full Equality Continues

LGBT advocates are celebrating Friday's Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. But they say the fight for full equality is not yet over. We provide a recap of the high court's decision and round up the reaction that's poured in from Illinois and across the country.

This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.

The court's 5-4 decision on the case, Obergefell v. Hodges, strikes down same-sex marriage bans as unconstitutional and makes marriage equality the law of the land. Before Friday's ruling, same-sex marriage had been legal in 36 U.S. states, including Illinois, and the District of Columbia.

The decision comes exactly two years after the nation's high court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act and ahead of LGBT pride events being held this weekend across the country, including in Chicago.

Shortly after the same-sex marriage ruling was announced, the Civil Rights Agenda's President and Founder Jacob Meister told Progress Illinois that he was "overwhelmed with excitement."

"I think it is a stunning victory and a great day for LGBT Americans across the country," he said. "This is a victory that the LGBT community and many, many of our allies have been working toward for the past decade at least, and we've come a long way from Massachusetts, which was the first state to have gay marriage. We've come a very far way, and today, the Supreme Court's decision affirms that gay and lesbian Americans have the same rights as every other American. We have the right to have families, to be in loving relationships that are recognized by the law, and we are going to be celebrating for not only through the gay pride weekend but for many, many months and years to come."

Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois, also cheered the high court's "milestone" ruling in an email to supporters. But he noted that much work remains for LGBT equality in other areas, like housing and the workplace: 

For the more than 10,000 same-sex couples married in Illinois, our marriages must now be recognized by every jurisdiction in the U.S. and accorded the same legal rights and protections.

Despite this milestone Supreme Court decision, many of the freedoms we enjoy in Illinois, including protections against discrimination in the workplace, housing, and public accommodations and recognition of parenting rights, are lost when we cross state lines, and these inequities must still be remedied in each state, in the courts or by action by Congress.

An Illinoisan who works across the border in Indiana to make a living for her family can still be fired if that worker is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. An Illinois couple that might want to get married in the resort communities on the Outer Banks of North Carolina can be refused that right by a magistrate. In some jurisdictions outside Illinois, same-sex married couples traveling with their children could find their parenting status challenged and one spouse might not be able to deal with an emergency on behalf of the entire family.

As we know from our national history, equal laws are just the foundation for securing equal treatment.  As we have seen in recent weeks, angry opponents of LGBT equality are determined to exploit and create legal loopholes to continue their attempts to marginalize LGBT individuals and deny us a chance to live equal lives.

And so our fight for a full equality continues in this state and across the nation. As we pause to celebrate today, we know our work to live equal resumes tomorrow.


More on Obergefell v. Hodges

Obergefell v. Hodges was a combination of four cases involving same-sex marriage bans in Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, and Tennessee.

The case centered around two key questions: Whether states can ban same-sex marriages, and, if they can, whether states must recognize lawful gay marriages performed in other jurisdictions. The case boiled down to whether the 14th Amendment, which guarantees due process and equal protection under the law, requires states to recognize same-sex marriages.

In its 5-4 decision, the court held that the 14th Amendment requires a state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and recognize gay marriages performed in other jurisdictions.

"The right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty," reads the majority opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the swing vote in the case. "Same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry ... The State laws challenged by the petitioners in these cases are held invalid to the extent they exclude same-sex couples from civil marriage on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples."

Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonya Sotomayor joined Kennedy in the majority.

Vincent Samar, adjunct professor at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law and an adjunct professor of philosophy at Loyola University Chicago, said the court's decision is "extremely strong on the fundamental right aspect of marriage, and the fact that same-sex couples have a right to marry now across the country that cannot be restricted."

Samar, however, pointed out that the majority opinion does not specifically state whether laws that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation warrant heightened judicial scrutiny.

"Had they gone to talk more about sexual orientation as a protected class, then that would ... have raised a greater protection" for LGBT people fighting discrimination in other cases, Samar explained.

Chief Justice John Roberts as well as Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito dissented. Each of the four justices wrote a separate dissent.

In his dissenting opinion, Roberts argued that "the majority's decision is an act of will, not legal judgment," adding that, "The right it announces has no basis in the Constitution or this court's precedent."

"Many people will rejoice at this decision, and I begrudge none their celebration," Roberts wrote. "But for those who believe in a government of laws, not of men, the majority's approach is deeply disheartening. Supporters of same-sex marriage have achieved considerable success persuading their fellow citizens -- through the democratic process -- to adopt their view. That ends today. Five lawyers have closed the debate and enacted their own vision of marriage as a matter of constitutional law. Stealing this issue from the people will for many cast a cloud over same-sex marriage, making a dramatic social change that much more difficult to accept."

National Reaction

Upon news breaking of the SCOTUS decision on same-sex marriage, President Barack Obama tweeted his support of the ruling:

Today is a big step in our march toward equality. Gay and lesbian couples now have the right to marry, just like anyone else. #LoveWins

-- President Obama (@POTUS) June 26, 2015

Speaking from the White House Rose Garden later in the morning, Obama said the outcome of the same-sex marriage case was "a victory for America."

"Progress on this journey often comes in small increments. Sometimes two steps forward, one step back," the president said. "And then sometimes there are days like this when that slow, steady effort leads to justice that arrives like a thunderbolt."

Obama also placed a call to the lead plaintiff in the case, Jim Obergefell, congratulating him on the victory.

"I'm really proud of you, and just know that not only did you set a great example for people, but you're also going to bring about a lasting change in this country," Obama told Obergefell by phone.

"It's pretty rare when that happens," the president said.

You can hear the president's call to Obergefell, which was caught live on CNN, here:

As part of his case, Obergefell sued the state of Ohio to be recognized as the surviving spouse on the death certificate of his late partner of more than two decades. Obergefell's partner, John Arthur, had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, in 2011. Arthur died a few months after the Ohio couple traveled to Maryland to legally wed in 2013.

In an open letter distributed by the White House, Obergefell offered these touching remarks about the significance of today's ruling:

My husband John died 20 months ago, so we're unable to celebrate together the Supreme Court's decision on the case that bears my name, Obergefell v. Hodges.

Today, for the first time, any couple -- straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender -- may obtain a marriage license and make their commitments public and legal in all 50 states. America has taken one more step toward the promise of equality enshrined in our Constitution, and I'm humbled to be part of that.

John and I started our fight for a simple reason: We wanted the State of Ohio to recognize our lawful Maryland marriage on John's impending death certificate. We wanted respect and dignity for our 20-year relationship, and as he lay dying of ALS, John had the right to know his last official record as a person would be accurate. We wanted to live up to the promises we made to love, honor, and protect each other as a committed and lawfully married couple.

Couples across America may now wed and have their marriage recognized and respected no matter what state they call home. No other person will learn at the most painful moment of married life, the death of a spouse, that their lawful marriage will be disregarded by the state. No married couple who moves will suddenly become two single persons because their new state ignores their lawful marriage.

Ethan and Andrew can marry in Cincinnati instead of being forced to travel to another state.

A girl named Ruby can have an accurate birth certificate listing her parents Kelly and Kelly.

Pam and Nicole never again have to fear for Grayden and Orion's lives in a medical emergency because, in their panic, they forgot legal documents that prove both mothers have the right to approve care.

Cooper can grow into a man knowing Joe and Rob are his parents in all ways emotional and legal.

I can finally relax knowing that Ohio can never erase our marriage from John's death certificate, and my husband can now truly rest in peace.

Marriage is about promises and commitments made legal and binding under the law, and those laws must apply equally to each and every American.

Today is a momentous day in our history. It's a day when the Supreme Court of the United States lived up to the words inscribed above the front entrance of the courthouse:

Equal Justice Under Law.

Among others voicing support for the SCOTUS decision was former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential candidate Hilary Clinton, who called the ruling "an affirmation of the commitment of couples across the country who love one another."

"It reflects the will of the vast and growing multitude of Americans who believe that LGBT couples deserve to be recognized under the law and treated equally in the eyes of society," she added. "And it represents our country at its best: inclusive, open, and striving towards true equality."

Clinton also pointed out that there is still more work to do when it comes to tackling the broader problem of discrimination.

"While we celebrate today, our work won't be finished until every American can not only marry, but live, work, pray, learn and raise a family free from discrimination and prejudice," she said. "We cannot settle for anything less."

Draft Biden 2016, a "group formed to encourage Vice President Joe Biden to enter the 2016 presidential race," also weighed in on the "favorable ruling on same-sex marriage." William Pierce, executive director of Draft Biden 2016, said Obergefell v. Hodges "may be remembered as one of the more defining civil rights cases in the Supreme Court's history."

"We are proud that the person we are trying to draft for the presidency, Joe Biden, was one of the highest ranking American official's to have first endorsed same-sex marriage," Pierce added.

On the Republican side, however, many GOP presidential hopefuls expressed displeasure with the outcome of the Obergefell v. Hodges case.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a likely 2016 Republican presidential candidate, described the ruling as a "grave mistake" and called for a U.S. constitutional amendment to undo it.

"As a result of this decision, the only alternative left for the American people is to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to reaffirm the ability of the states to continue to define marriage," Walker said in a statement. "I call on the president and all governors to join me in reassuring millions of Americans that the government will not force them to participate in activities that violate their deeply held religious beliefs."

Illinois Reaction

Comments have been pouring in today about the SCOTUS decision from Illinois elected officials and others from across the state, with U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) saying June 26 marks "a great day for marriage equality and a historic day for civil rights in our country."

"The decision by the Supreme Court affirms that same-sex couples across the nation have the right to marry whom they love and to participate fully - with their families - in the rights and responsibilities of marriage," Durbin said. "Another step in the march toward equal rights has been taken today."

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel had this to say:

The City of Chicago applauds and celebrates today's historic decision by the United States Supreme Court. By ruling that every American has a right to marry whomever they love regardless of where they live, today marks one of the great civil rights victories of our time. It is a victory for America's true values of treating everyone equally under the law. I want to thank every resident of the City of Chicago who fought to make today's historic victory possible.

Cook County Clerk David Orr released the following remarks in response to the SCOTUS ruling:

Marriage equality will now be the law of the land, and there is no turning back. I am thrilled that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of marriage equality, agreeing with the majority of Americans that same-sex couples throughout the United States should enjoy the right to marry.

Justice delayed is justice denied. For too long, same-sex couples in this country have had to wait: for state legislatures to pass marriage equality; for judges to declare that withholding this right was unconstitutional; and for voters to turn back anti-equality initiatives, just so they could marry the person they love.

Like all civil rights struggles, the fight for marriage equality has been long and contentious, but those on the frontlines worked hard and kept their focus steady, as their victories increased. I have supported this fight, applauded each victory, especially here in Illinois and Cook County. I congratulate the LBGT community, and all advocates of equality, on this momentous day.

Newly-elected Chicago Ald. Carolos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), who is openly gay and a member of the city council's new LGBT caucus, celebrated the court's ruling, but made note of the challenges the LGBT community still faces:

It is a humbling and overwhelming opportunity to stand as an elected official and celebrate the Supreme Court's ruling with not just the LGBQT community, not just with the people of Chicago, but with a country that has at long last declared that the fundamental right to marriage and family shall no longer be denied to my LGBQT sisters and brothers.

To that end I say thank you. To every supporter, every fighter, every heartbroken would-be spouse, every parent, every ally who stood and said, we are not asking for our fundamental rights, we demand the fundamental liberties of all. Our fight is far from over. We will continue to fight for the rights of all members of our LGBTQ community - our trans sisters and brothers, immigrants facing abuse in ICE detention centers, youth facing homelessness. The fight for LGBTQ equality is not over until all members of our community are free to live with dignity.

U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL,2) also lauded the high court's decision:

Generations of LGBT Americans have been denied the benefits of equal marriage--publicly shamed and forced to hide their love. Today, the Supreme Court affirmed that LGBT Americans can marry equally under law and couples can now enjoy the same right to marry the one that they love. Regardless of race, religion, gender, or region, LGBT Americans will have this right and represent our deepest held American values of freedom and equality guaranteed under the constitution.

On this monumental day, we must remember those LGBT couples who fought for this right. We must continue to fight for protections for LGBT Americans, to ensure that they will not lose their jobs for who they are. No American should live in fear because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL,4) issued a statement on the marriage equality decision, also noting the Thursday decision on the Affordable Care Act:

America is having a very good week.  The Supreme Court came down on the side of justice and humanity and affirmed what is so great about our nation: our inclusiveness, our sense of equality, and our thirst for laws that honor and respect everyone.

My support of the LGBTQ-plus community goes back to my earliest days on the City Council of Chicago when the city was on the cutting edge of recognizing gay rights.  I was one of only 65 Democrats who voted against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 in the House of Representatives and it was one of the most important votes I ever cast.

Courts sometimes slow down the march towards progress as every major step towards inclusion is challenged using all the tools in the democratic arsenal, but that is what makes such achievements more momentous as they testify to the value of a thriving democracy.  In the end, history and justice and fairness usually win out.  With the President's health care law, with the ruling on housing discrimination, and with this historic ruling on love and marriage, the Supreme Court is affirming what Dr. Martin Luther King taught us about the arc of the moral universe.  It is indeed long and bends towards justice, sometimes in ways even he could not have imagined.

I am proud that the Supreme Court and the rest of the nation have finally caught up with the American people by making the right decision.

I expect to celebrate a similar common-sense ruling if and when the President's immigration executive actions reach the Supreme Court because the law and history are clear and the underlying issues of justice and fairness are equally clear.

I am extremely proud that my country is moving in the right direction.

Former congressman and 2016 Democratic candidate for Illinois' 10th congressional district Brad Schneider also celebrated the decision via the following statement:

All Americans should enjoy the fundamental right of marrying the one they love. I'm proud that we in Illinois led the way toward marriage equality at the state level and I'm proud that today's ruling has extended the right of marriage to LGBT individuals all across the country. This is truly an historic and long-deserved moment.

In Chicago, the Gay Liberation Network and Marriage Equality USA will be holding a rally this evening outside the Center on Halsted in celebration of today's ruling. Check back with Progress Illinois for our coverage of that event. We'll also be live tweeting via @ProgressIL


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