We are posting statements on the U.S. Supreme Court gay marriage rulings on DOMA and Prop 8 from local (New England) LGBT rights advocates and politicians as we receive them.
Briefly, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) today. The ruling means that same-sex couples who are legally married in states such as Massachusetts, Vermont and New York will have their marriages recognized by federal law. No more having to file single tax forms at the federal level and couples' forms with the state for married same-sex couples.
Regarding Prop 8, the Supreme Court ruled that the petitioners for the case had no standing. The case goes back to California.
Here are some statements (most recent statements come first):
From Abbie E. Goldberg, associate professor of psychology at Clark University:
“This is a historic day in history, with profound implications for couples and families throughout the US. Today’s ruling sends a message not only to the children being raised by lesbian and gay couples and parents, but to their classmates, neighbors, and community members. In ruling DOMA unconstitutional, the SCOTUS has communicated a powerful message about equality for all families.”
From Peter F. Zupcofska, partner and Burns & Levinson:
The US Supreme Court DOMA ruling means that gay and lesbian married couples in same sex marriage states will now be able to file as married 1040 tax returns. In addition divorcing couples will have the right to significant tax benefits that run to divorcing straight couples, specifically, alimony tax treatment and the ability to make property transfer without incurring capital gains taxes.
On the death of a spouse the surviving gay or lesbian spouse will not have to pay the federal taxes just as a surviving straight spouse has not had to pay such taxes.
Query?- What if a Massachusetts gay couple married for 5 years moves to Florida or a whole host of other states that do not recognize marriage between same sex partners- would that mean that those federal benefits received by the gay and lesbian couples in Massachusetts would be erased because they moved to these other states? This dichotomy creates significant and rarely discussed complications. Since individual states can refuse to follow federal law, couples who are married in a state where gay marriage is recognized and then live in a state that does not recognize gay marriage can encounter difficulties in many aspects of normal life.
From openly gay Candidate for Boston City Council At-Large Jeff Ross:
“The Supreme Court did the right thing today by striking down DOMA and finally recognizing that gay and lesbian couples in Massachusetts are fully equal under the law. We led the way when it comes to marriage equality here in Massachusetts over 9 years ago and I am proud that today, Boston’s gay and lesbian couples will be fully recognized under federal law” said Ross. “While I’m not running just to make history as the first openly gay city councilor ever elected city-wide, I’m proud of how far our country has come and I am energized about the work ahead. Bostonians believes in a truly equal, diverse city and I hope to add to that history by becoming Boston’s first openly gay at-large city councilor and continuing the movement for true equality.”
From the The Massachusetts LGBTQ Bar Association:
U.S. Supreme Court Hands Down Two Victories for Same-Sex Couples!
Today, in a landmark victory for our community, commonwealth, and country, the U.S. Supreme Court held that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional. With today’s decision in U.S. v. Windsor, legally married same-sex couples will now be entitled to over 1,000 federal rights and benefits previously available only to married opposite-sex couples.
Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy eloquently stated that while New York’s law allowing same-sex marriages conferred upon same-sex couples “a dignity and status of immense import”, DOMA injured “the very class New York seeks to protect”. Quoting from DOMA’s legislative history, the majority opinion noted that DOMA’s stated purpose was “to promote an ‘interest in protecting the traditional moral teachings reflected in heterosexual-only marriage laws’”. Further, the Court determined that the principal effect of DOMA was “to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal”. Reasoning that “no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom [New York], by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity”, the Court held that DOMA violated the Fifth Amendment.
The U.S. Supreme Court today also dismissed the Proposition 8 case of Hollingsworth v. Perry, finding that the Petitioners (the Prop 8 proponents) lacked standing. With this dismissal, California can be expected to resume same-sex marriages in the near future. The Massachusetts LGBTQ Bar Association joined a broad coalition of over 40 amici curiae before the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the repeal of both DOMA and Prop 8.
Rolando Medina, Co-Chair; and M. Barusch, Co-Chair
From Lisa Cukier, Partner at Burns & Levinson:
“With today’s rulings in United States v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v Perry, the US Supreme Court delivered a ruling of immense importance in the landscape of equality. Same sex couples who are married in states that permit gay couples to marry, may finally enjoy the full panoply of rights enjoyed by straight couples. Married same-sex couples in those states can finally enjoy all state and federal benefits, rights and protections of marriage.
But don’t pop a cork yet. And don’t be lulled into complacency and a belief that the marriage equality fight has concluded. To the contrary, same-sex marriages are still largely a second class status. The federal government will still deny same sex marriages and not recognize the marriages of same-sex spouses who marry in states that permit same-sex marriage, but who then relocate to or travel to any of the 36 other states that have state DOMA laws. Don’t be lulled into thinking that your marriage can cross state borders!
If a couple marries in Massachusetts, for example, and relocates to a state that has a state DOMA law, the federal government can still deny Social Security benefits and VA benefits. The marriage will not be recognized by immigration authorities. The couple will not be protected by marital deduction estate planning for estate tax purposes. ERISA retirement protections will dissolve upon crossing the border. Health insurance benefits may be denied. Crossing state lines will mean that the couple may not be able to secure a divorce if needed, and even if a divorce were somehow granted by a state with a DOMA law, assets divided incident to the divorce will not be subject to tax protections and advantages aimed at preventing spousal impoverishment. And what if one spouse remains in the state that permitted the marriage and the other spouse relocates to a state that prohibits same-sex marriages; how will state and federal law be applied to protect the marriages of couples whose marriage cross jurisdictions? Which law applies?
While today’s decisions are awesome and incredible given the sea change in national recognition of gay relationships, the fact remains that same-sex marriages are not reliable marriages. Until same sex marriage is portable across state lines, it is a second class status. And separate is not equal.”
From ACLU of Massachusetts Executive Director Carol Rose:
"This is a truly historic victory and a momentous day for our client Edie Windsor and for loving, married same-sex couples and their families here in Massachusetts and across the country. With today's ruling the Supreme Court strikes down the core of the Defense of Marriage Act recognizing that it is discriminatory for our federal government to treat legally married gay couples in our Commonwealth and across the country any differently than it treats legally married heterosexual couples.
"This is a tremendous step forward. The ACLU brought this case because there are more than 1100 places in federal laws and programs where being married makes a difference--from eligibility for family medical leave, to Social Security survivor's benefits, to access to health care for a spouse. Today's decision will make a huge difference in the lives of thousands of legally married gay couples in Massachusetts and elsewhere. Married same-sex couples should now be eligible for these benefits and protections.
"DOMA is the last federal law on the books that mandates discrimination against gay people by the federal government simply because they are gay, and today's decision takes down its core. It's a great day for equality and the beginning of the end of official discrimination against lesbians and gay men."
From AIDS Action Committee President & CEO Rebecca Haag:
“This is an historic day for America and a giant step forward for equality. By overturning Section Three of the Defense of Marriage Act, tens of thousands of legally married same-sex couples here in Massachusetts and across the country will be able to access federal rights and benefits related to marriage. One of the wide-ranging impacts of this decision will be an improvement in the health of LGBT people. Intolerance and discrimination have long been linked to health care disparities. And discrimination against LGBT people has been specifically linked to increased rates of HIV. In 2009, two economists at Emory University found that states with laws against the marriage rights of same-sex couples saw an increase in HIV diagnoses by four people per 100,000. It’s very simple: The health of the LGBT community improves when we embrace LGBT people for their full worth and dignity. Today’s decision on DOMA does just that.”
From GLAD (Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders) Executive Director Lee Swlslow:
"What a joyous day for our community! In two momentous victories, the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down Section 3 of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and opened the door for marriage equality to return to California! With the stain of DOMA gone, married couples and their families now stand before their federal government as equals. I am so proud of the work GLAD has done for more than a decade to get us to this day - from our landmark Goodridge victory in Massachusetts that first brought marriage equality to the U.S., to our Gill and Pedersen cases that laid the groundwork for today's ruling against DOMA. Like our Gill and Pedersen plaintiffs, Edie Windsor was stung by DOMA's discrimination. We salute Edie and her advocates at the ACLU and Paul Weiss Rifkind for carrying us over the finish line. This victory will enable couples everywhere to better protect one another and their children. … The Supreme Court affirmed today what you and I have always known: there should be no gay exception in how the federal government treats marriages. We knew this day would come. We knew we had truth and justice on our side. Thank you for the support you have provided every step of the way. Now, it's time to celebrate!"
From MassEquality Executive Director Kara Suffredini:
"This is a great day for our Commonwealth and our country as we move closer to equality for all people. In Massachusetts, we've celebrated marriage equality for nine years, and we know that families are healthier and communities are stronger when everyone is treated with dignity and respect. Today's DOMA ruling does just that by affirming that all who choose to legally marry come before their government as equals. We are also excited that the Supreme Court’s decision in Prop 8 effectively restores marriage equality in California. While there is still more work to do to ensure equality and justice for all LGBTQ people, these decisions are historic steps forward, and today is a great day for America. As momentum for marriage equality continues to build, MassEquality looks forward to the day when all states can join Massachusetts in enjoying the freedom to marry.
For Massachusetts, this landmark DOMA decision means the end to a two-tiered system for marriage. The federal government will now defer to the states in determining whether a couple’s marriage is legal.
A rally will be held today at 5:30 in front of Cambridge City Hall, the site of the first legal same-sex marriage in the country, to mark this historic day."
From Boston Mayor Thomas Menino:
“Today is a great day for all of our people. Marriage equality first played out right here in Boston and like the many firsts Boston has championed it has proven to be the right path forward for a more open, inclusive America, where everyone is welcome to love, pray and believe however they choose. I am grateful for the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense Against Marriage Act. It gives our many employees and residents the rights of other married couples and more importantly recognizes that their love is no different. In the weeks and months ahead, the nation will realize what we in Boston and Massachusetts have long known: we should be free to marry the person we love. We are one Boston – a victory for our gay and lesbian friends is a victory for all of us. Today, I am proud that our highest court upheld the values and laws that underscores our belief that diversity is the great strength of our city and our country. And I am so proud of my many friends and neighbors who fought for this ruling. Even as we celebrate today’s decision, we must remember the millions of gay and lesbian couples who still cannot get married. While there is more work to be done, today is a signal to the rest of the country that full equality is coming.”
From openly gay Massachusetts state Rep. Carl Sciortino, who is also a candidate for Congress in the 5th District:
“When I first ran for State Representative in 2004, I couldn’t have imagined how much progress we would make on marriage equality in nine short years. We are headed to the day to all couples have the right to marry whoever they love in any state in the country. But we are not there yet. Today is a great step forward for the thousands of couples living in states with marriage equality, and I’m so proud of Massachusetts for being a leader for equal rights. We must keep working until there is true marriage equality in every state.”
From Massachusetts' Attorney General Martha Coakley's office:
AG COAKLEY APPLAUDS U.S. SUPREME COURT DECISION ...
In 2009, at AG Coakley’s direction, Massachusetts became the first and only state to file a complaint challenging DOMA’s constitutionality, alleging that DOMA interfered with Massachusetts’s sovereign authority to define and regulate the marital status of its residents and forced Massachusetts to unlawfully discriminate against its residents.
Attorney General Martha Coakley released the following statement on today’s decision:
“This ruling is a victory for equality and civil rights for all. By striking down DOMA, the highest court has ensured that married same-sex couples are treated equally under federal law. Thousands of families throughout Massachusetts and the nation will no longer be denied social security, medical benefits or other fundamental protections simply because of who they love.
I am proud of Massachusetts’ leadership on this important issue that will have a direct impact on so many people’s lives. The institution of marriage is only strengthened when we embrace marriage equality. Today’s decision is another major step on the march toward equality for all.”
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