Supreme Court rules on same-sex marriage: Joy, defiance and questions result
Jun 26, 2015 | 9:35 PM
Before this morning's Supreme Court ruling, same-sex couples could marry in 36 states and District of Columbia. Within hours of the decision, weddings were taking place in new states (at least in some counties): Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio, as well as North and South Dakota.
Justices, in their landmark 5-4 decision, had ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marriage that can't be denied by state law.
President Obama, who called the decision a ‘victory for America,’ was among those cheering the move.
But opponents of same-sex marriage expressed deep disappointment.
Wedding bells have yet to ring in Mississippi and Lousiana. Mississippi's attorney general said same-sex couples there will have to wait for a federal appeals court to clear the way for marriage licenses to be issued.
He spoke about the struggles of the AIDS crisis and said this night was for those who fought and died in this same location, West Hollywood. Duran is HIV-positive and openly gay, and he lost numerous friends to the disease.
"And now here we are. The price we have paid is high, but the victory is so sweet."
North Hollywood residents Edward Danfifer, 51, and Stacy Johnson, 46, wore T-shirts that said, "Mr. & Mr. - April 9, 2016" -- the date of the men's upcoming marriage in Topanga.
Danfifer came out in 1981, amid the devastation of AIDS. He had tears in his eyes as he talked, looking around at the rainbow flag-toting crowd around him. When he came out, "we were concerned with living. Everyone was dying. We were fighting for the right to live, fighting for medication. I didn't think I'd live to be 25, let alone 50. Today is just -- it's an amazing day." The song "That's the Power of Love" blared over the loudspeakers.
Johnson came out in 1992 when he was in the Navy in spite of policies against gays serving in the military. He saw the news of the Supreme Court decision Friday morning on Facebook. Then his phone died because so many congratulatory texts came in, the most touching of which came from straight friends in his small conservative hometown in West Virginia.
"Oh my god, I cried," Johnson said.
The men started dating 17 months ago, and for the first year they went to the same restaurant in the NoHo Arts District every month. Danfifer proposed during a vacation to Costa Rica this April with a restaurant dessert tray that had "Stacy, will you?" written in frosting. He got down on one knee. Johnson said yes and immediately picked out a date and started planning the wedding details.
Hundreds of people gathered at West Hollywood Park on Friday night to celebrate the Supreme Court's ruling on gay marriage. Rally-goers expressed joy but also sadness, as the day coincided with the Rev. Clementa Pinckney's funeral.
With a sea of rainbows, West Hollywood celebration kicks off
At one of many local celebrations of today's Supreme Court ruling, hundreds gathered for a rally in West Hollywood that began this evening.
From the archives: Nation's first predominantly gay church was founded in L.A.
Los Angeles Times Archives
In this Dec. 9, 1969, article, Los Angeles Times religion writer John Dart profiles Metropolitan Community Church, the nation's first predominantly gay church with an openly gay pastor.
The church, founded in 1968 by the Rev. Troy Perry, is also believed to be where the first public same-sex wedding ceremony took place, according to historians and church members.
While the article describes a church in many ways ahead of its time, some parts of the article hark back to a time when society was much less accepting, even for those in "the increasingly outspoken homosexual community in Los Angeles."
At one point in a Sunday service, for example, Perry draws laughter after asking congregants to give real names because leaders were having trouble contacting them.
"Although most of the members are not ashamed of their homosexuality, many fear public disclosure -- sometimes because it could cause them to be discharged from their jobs," Dart wrote.
Perry summed up the purpose of his church in the article's final quote.
"'Most churches in America don't openly invite homosexuals as homosexuals to come and worship God,'" Perry said. "'They feel if anything, they have to change the person and convert him from his homosexuality to make him a fit member for their church -- and that's just impossible.'"
In response to ruling, Ted Cruz says justices should face re-election
Mark Wilson / Getty Images
After back-to-back Supreme Court rulings defeated conservative opposition to the Affordable Care Act and same-sex marriage, Sen. Ted Cruz called for the high court's justices to face retention elections on Friday.
Under the proposal, justices would face "periodic judicial retention elections" coinciding with the second national election after their appointment. They would then face re-election every eight years, Cruz wrote.
The measure would provide Americans with the tools to "remedy the problem of judicial activism and the means for throwing off judicial tyrants," Cruz wrote.
As Robin Abcarian notes, Justice Samuel Alito fretted today in his dissent that it won't be safe to knock gay marriage anymore.
I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools.
Justice Samuel Alito
Abcarian thinks Alito veers dangerously close to Scalia-style hysteria when he worries that legalizing same-sex marriage will unleash an urge for retribution.
Recalling the harsh treatment of gays and lesbians in the past, some may think that turn-about is fair play. But if that sentiment prevails, the Nation will experience bitter and lasting wounds.
She asks: "How can he fail to grasp that the nation has already experienced bitter and lasting wounds from the despicable way it has treated its gay citizens? The affronts, insults and murders over the last half century are far too numerous to recount."
(Charles Dharapak / Associated Press)
At long last, marriage equality in the U.S. .... We started that movement right here when Gavin Newsom dared to marry loving same-sex couples right under this dome. We are proud of our city leading the nation and even the world on this issue.”
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, speaking at S.F. City Hall
Some of the nation's largest tech firms, many of which have long advocated for marriage equality in the U.S., draped the Internet in a rainbow hue in support of the Supreme Court's ruling on Friday.
Tweets using the hashtag #LoveWins were automatically joined by a rainbow-streaked heart. Facebook gave users the option to impose rainbow stripes over their profile picture. Even Uber added little rainbows to the cars traveling along its app's map layout.
United Methodist Rev. Frank Schaefer, who was temporarily defrocked after officiating at his gay son's wedding, issued a statement Friday in support of the legalization of same-sex marriage.
"Today's court decision should unify all of us, no matter where anybody stands on the issue," Schaefer said in the statement.
Schaefer was stripped of his ordination in December 2013 after he refused to tell a church jury that he would not preside over more same-sex marriages, which Methodist law forbids.
A Methodist appeals court restored Schaefer's ministerial rights in June 2014.
In the statement, Schaefer called upon religious leaders to reconsider their long-held opposition to same-sex marriage.
"This is not the first time the religious community has made a transition toward re-interpreting sacred writings and traditions," he said. "This was the case in the abolishment of slavery, Jim Crow laws, the ban on women in the clergy, and the ban on re-marriage in cases of divorce."
Natalie Novoa, left, and Eddie Daniels take a selfie while waiting to get married at the L.A. County Registrar branch in Beverly Hills on Friday.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Lorri L. Jean, left, CEO of the Los Angeles LGBT Center in Hollywood, greets Michael Ferrera during a celebration party at the center as locals react to the ruling.
(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)
Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, center, the city's first openly gay mayor, is helped by several people who joined in to raise a rainbow flag over the Civic Plaza.
Pride flying high in Long Beach
Long Beach raised the rainbow flag high among a circle of banners that fly at the Long Beach Civic Center.
"People are starting to recognize that some identities haven't been honored," said Elliot Gonzalez, 28, who serves on Long Beach's Sustainable City Commission. "Today was one step forward for a lot of people."
Several counties in Alabama are refusing to issue licenses to same-sex couples, according to the head of the ACLU in Alabama.
In an attempt to defy the ruling, several county probate judges in Alabama are refusing to issue marriage licenses to all couples — both heterosexual and homosexual — which they are allowed to do under state law, according to Susan Watson, executive director of the state ACLU. Alabama state law stipulates that probate judges “may” issue marriage licenses but they are not required to, Watson said.
Judges in Alabama can be disciplined only if they refuse to issue licenses to same-sex couples while they continue issuing licenses to heterosexual couples. Watson says four counties are engaging in such practices.
The state's two largest counties, Jefferson and Mobile counties, have begun issuing licenses, according to Watson.
Alabama has been one of the fiercest battlegrounds in the push to legalize same-sex marriage. A federal judge overturned the state's ban on same-sex marriage in February, but Roy Moore, the state's chief justice, followed that ruling with an order blocking judges from issuing licenses.
Five rainbow flags were hung on New York City Hall on Friday following the ruling.
Mayor Bill de Blasio was on hand to help marry a couple in front of the building, and a band played Mendelssohn's "Wedding March."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the 408-foot spire atop the new World Trade Center building would light up in rainbow colors in honor of the occasion. "New York has been a leader in the fight for marriage equality, and today's Supreme Court decision affirms what we have fought so hard for."
—Tina Susman and Christine Mai-Duc
Eric Garcetti: 'Today, love won'
Flanked by several city officials, including City Councilman Mike Bonin and his husband, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti became emotional while praising the Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage today.
Today the Supreme Court fulfilled the words engraved upon its building: 'Equal justice under the law" .... For far too long our justice system has marginalized the gay community and I am very glad the Court has finally caught up to the American people."
The Supreme Court has stripped all Americans of our freedom to debate and decide marriage policy through the democratic process. The freedom to democratically address the most pressing social issues of the day is the heart of liberty. The court took that freedom from the people and overrode the considered judgment of tens of millions of Americans.
Jim Campbell, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom
Rainbow flag to be raised at Long Beach City Hall
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)
Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia plans to raise the rainbow flag, representing gay pride, over the Long Beach Civic Plaza on Friday, he announced.
Garcia, elected in 2014, is the city's first openly gay and first Latino mayor.
In a statement, Garcia said he "could not be more proud of our country today. Love won, freedom won, and equality won. Millions of Americans — including myself and my long time partner — will finally be treated equally under the law."
Garcia says he plans to raise the flag outside City Hall around noon Friday.
Some state leaders still delaying, or resisting, same-sex marriage
Joel Martinez / The Monitor
Elected officials and judges in some Southern states indicated that they may resist today's historic ruling.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he will issue a directive later today ordering state agencies to "prioritize the protection of Texans' religious liberties."
"No Texan is required by the Supreme Court's decision to act contrary to his or her religious beliefs,” he said in a statement.
While he acknowledged that the high court's decision is "the law of the land," Mississippi Atty. Gen. Jim Hood said Friday he would not allow licenses to be issued until a federal appeals court lifts its stay of a lower court order overturning the state's ban on same-sex marriage.
Hood said it could take several days for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to lift its stay, and marriages will not take place in the state until that happens.
The 5th Circuit heard arguments in January about cases that overturned marriage bans in Texas and Mississippi, as well as a lower court ruling that upheld Louisiana's ban. The court did not issue an opinion in the case, choosing to wait on the Supreme Court.
In Alabama, Elmore County Probate Judge John Enslen has vowed to spend "life in prison" before he issues a marriage license to a same-sex couple.
--James Queally and Tina Susman
'Our family will have protection now'
The news that the Supreme Court had legalized same-sex marriage pleased Kristin and Jennifer Seaton-Rambo, full-time students who married last year in Arkansas while such unions were briefly legal in that state.
Even though they were already married, the ruling offered them something special, they said.
“Our family will have protection now,” they said in a telephone interview.
Kristin proposed to Jennifer on March 8, 2014, and the couple had prepared to marry in the fall.
But when the courts allowed same-sex marriage on May 9, they jumped at the chance, Jennifer said, and they were married the next day.
“I think the same-sex marriage movement is continuing and will continue to spread,” Jennifer said. “I feel it will eliminate the cycle of hate by accepting one another throughout the world.”
Petrina Bloodworth and Emma Foulkes had been together for 10 years, but they both were shocked when a reporter congratulated them on becoming wife and wife.
The congratulations were greeted with silence.
“It's just we hadn't heard that before,” Bloodworth said. “This is the first time.”
Moments earlier, the couple became what most activists believe was the first same-sex couple to marry in Atlanta after today's historic ruling.
The couple said they had considered getting married elsewhere but that would have created problems when they returned home to Georgia, where their marriage would not have been recognized. But Bloodworth said she was happy the couple waited.
“We are focused on love and family,” Bloodworth said. “We're on top of the world.”
Tech giant Google Inc. joined supporters in celebrating Friday's ruling, adding images of rainbow-colored hearts and people to search results of the phrase "gay marriage."
A message appended to the bottom of its home page said, "YouTube and Google are proud to celebrate marriage equality. #ProudtoLove," and linked to a video highlighting recent gains for gay rights.
Jindal: Ruling marks 'all out assault' against religious freedom
Gerald Herbert / Associated Press
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who entered the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination earlier this week, said today's ruling tramples on the rights of Christians and violates the First Amendment.
“The Supreme Court decision today conveniently and not surprisingly follows public opinion polls, and tramples on states' rights that were once protected by the 10th Amendment of the Constitution," he said in a statement. "Marriage between a man and a woman was established by God, and no earthly court can alter that."
Jindal expressed concern that the ruling could be used to force business owners who are religiously opposed to same-sex marriage to take part in future ceremonies.
A federal appeals court decision to uphold same-sex marriage bans in four states earlier this year ultimately pushed the issue before the Supreme Court, but after today's historic ruling, marriages have begun in those holdout states.
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear issued a statement Friday ordering county clerks to revise the state's marriage license forms immediately.
In Ohio, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley performed a marriage for a gay couple just two hours after the court's decision became public, according to the Associated Press.
Wheeler also announced on Twitter that the city would perform marriages free of cost for the next week.
In Michigan, another holdout state, Atty. Gen. Bill Schuette said his office would "honor, respect and uphold" the court's ruling.
Calls to the Attorney General's office in Tennessee, the fourth state involved in the 6th Circuit case earlier this year, were not immediately returned.
Finally the highest court in the land has acknowledged that marriage is a fundamental right to which no one should be denied. This holding reaffirms the sacred principle that all people are created equal. It's time to end the debate — let the wedding bells ring.
California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris
Wedding cake in Atlanta
Moments after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, they began serving cake in the Atlanta office where marriage licenses are issued.
The first same-sex couple received their license about 10:45 a.m., said Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, by telephone.
“This is the moment we have all been waiting for,” he said.
Dozens of couples were in the office.
Georgia had filed a brief opposing the legalization of same-sex marriage across the country. Today, the governor had this to say:
California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom praised today's ruling but also tempered his optimism, warning that other landmark civil rights decisions have been challenged and undermined decades later.
"I celebrate today's decision but recognize that the fight for equality is not over," Newsom said in a statement. "Far from it. As we look to the future, I urge those with whom I have walked this march to continue forward with vigilance and resolve."
Newsom also called for better protections for LGBT employees who may face workplace discrimination.
The former San Francisco mayor was instrumental in the early stages of the fight for same-sex marriages in 2004, when he ordered local officials to begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses. The California Supreme Court halted the marriages a month later, but 4,000 couples were wed under Newsom's order.
With the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots this weekend, we're reminded of how long and winding the road to equality has been. Today, our highest court has upheld a principle enshrined in our Constitution, but only now finally realized for same-sex couples across America.
Victor Holmes, left, and his partner, Mark Phariss, had their photo taken in front of the Texas state Capitol in anticipation of the Supreme Court ruling Thursday. (Credit: Andrew Slaton)
Two of the plaintiffs who challenged the Texas law banning same-sex marriages say they're now planning a November wedding.
"After almost 18 years together, we can soon exchange vows, place rings on each other's finger, look each other in the eye and say 'I do,'" said Mark Phariss, a corporate lawyer who lives outside Dallas.
Texas Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton vowed Friday to address questions about the "religious liberties" of court clerks and others who might be compelled to participate in gay weddings.
But Friday was about celebration for the couple.
"That Mark and I can finally marry in our home state, surrounded by friends and family, is a dream come true," said Victor Holmes, Phariss' partner.
President Obama lauded the Supreme Court's ruling during remarks in the White House Rose Garden, calling it a “victory for America.”
He praised the persistence of same-sex marriage backers who took their fight to statehouses, courthouses and all the way to the Supreme Court. “Sometimes,” he said, “there are days like this, when that slow, steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.”
The president vowed that allowing same-sex couples to marry would strengthen communities by extending “the full promise of America to every American.”
“This ruling is a victory for America,” he said. “This decision affirms what millions of Americans already believe in their hearts: that when all Americans are treated as equal, all are free.”
Guided by my faith, I believe in traditional marriage. I believe the Supreme Court should have allowed the states to make this decision. I also believe that we should love our neighbor and respect others, including those making lifetime commitments. In a country as diverse as ours, good people who have opposing views should be able to live side by side. It is now crucial that as a country we protect religious freedom and the right of conscience and also not discriminate.
Jeb Bush, former Florida governor and current GOP presidential candidate
Texas Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton: 'Far from a victory for anyone'
Texas Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton issued a statement after the Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage, saying that religious liberty is at stake.
"The impact of this opinion on our society and the familial fabric of our nation will be profound. Far from a victory for anyone, this is instead a dilution of marriage as a societal institution," he wrote. "But no court, no law, no rule, and no words will change the simple truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. And nothing will change our collective resolve that all Americans should be able to exercise their faith in their daily lives without infringement and harassment. ... It is not acceptable that people of faith be exposed to such abuse."
Today, my heart is full of joy because the Supreme Court recognized that all Americans should be able to marry the person they love.
Today's historic decision comes two years after the Supreme Court's last landmark ruling on gay marriage: The high court struck down a key component of the Defense of Marriage Act on June 26, 2013.
That ruling, which gave same-sex couples who are legally married equal rights to benefits under federal law, kick-started the two-year campaign that saw same-sex marriage bans struck down in more than 30 states.
The Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA, cleared Congress with bipartisan support in 1996.
Today is a great day for America's families. The U.S. Conference of Mayors hails the Supreme Court's decisions today on marriage equality. This historic decision will dramatically improve the lives of same-sex couples in cities across the nation.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, speaking on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Mayors
All human beings are created equal by God and thus deserve to be treated with love, dignity and respect. I am, however, disappointed that the Supreme Court disregarded the democratically enacted will of millions of Americans by forcing states to redefine the institution of marriage. My views are based on my upbringing and my faith. I believe that marriage is a sacred vow between one man and one woman, and I believe Americans should be able to live and work according to their beliefs.
House Speaker John A. Boehner
ACLU: 'The wind is at our backs'
The American Civil Liberties Union hailed the Supreme Court's sweeping decision Friday as historic.
"Today's decision has been 50 years in the making and will stand with Brown vs. Board of Education as one of the landmark civil rights moments of our time," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero, citing the famous 1954 decision that desegregated public schools.
Romero said the next step was to fight for LGBT non-discrimination laws in all states. "The wind is at our backs, and we are now on the cusp of achieving full legal equality for LGBT Americans," he said.
In 2013, only 12 states allowed same-sex couples to marry. But the Supreme Court ruling that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act that year paved the way for dozens of lower courts to overturn voter-approved marriage bans throughout the U.S.
The Los Angeles Times has been tracking the changes in each state in recent months, and you can follow the history of those legal battles here.
Today the Supreme Court ruled on the right side of history ... Same sex couples have fought so hard and waited for so long for their government to respect their love and recognize the dignity of their unions."
Sen. Harry Reid
Next frontier for gay rights? Employment and housing discrimination
Though a broad high court ruling may very well send a legal message throughout the country that discrimination based on sexual orientation is on shaky legal ground, current federal civil rights laws do not explicitly ban such discrimination.
Only 22 states and the District of Columbia have laws against discrimination based on sexual orientation, leaving millions of gays and lesbians without a clear right to rent an apartment, eat at a restaurant or keep their jobs.
“This is the next frontier after same-sex marriage,” said Bryan Gatewood, a gay rights lawyer in Louisville.
From the Supreme Court ruling that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013 to today's historic decision, the Los Angeles Times has provided extensive coverage of the march towards legalizing gay marriage throughout the country.
You can find dozens of stories by Times reporters in Los Angeles, Washington and around the country here .
The right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of a person, under the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment, couples of the same sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty.
This court is not a legislature. Whether same-sex marriage is a good idea should be of no concern to us. [The issue] is not about whether, in my judgment, the institution of marriage should be changed to include same-sex couples. It is instead about whether, in our democratic republic, that decision should rest with the people acting through their elected representatives, or with five lawyers who happen to hold commissions authoring them to resolve legal disputes according to law.