Significant Victories For LGBT Rights in Prop 8, DOMA Rulings

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 A couple celebrates at San Francisco City Hall upon hearing the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down the Defense of Marriage Act on June 26, 2013. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A couple celebrates upon hearing the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down the Defense of Marriage Act at City Hall June 26, 2013 in San Francisco, United States. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP and KQED) — In significant but incomplete victories for gay rights, the Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down a provision of a federal law denying federal benefits to married gay couples and cleared the way for the resumption of same-sex marriage in California.

California Gov. Jerry Brown and Attorney Gen. Kamala Harris said the ruling on Proposition 8, the state's same-sex marriage ban, would apply statewide, a directive that Prop. 8 supporters may challenge in court.

"The governor has directed the California Department of Public Health to advise county officials today that the district court’s injunction against Proposition 8 applies statewide and that all county clerks and county registrar/recorders must comply with it," a statement from Brown's office said.

The two 5-4 rulings by the Supreme Court came in its final session of the term. The decision on the Defense of Marriage Act wiped away part of a federal anti-gay marriage law that has kept legally married same-sex couples from receiving tax, health pension and other benefits.

The Prop. 8 decision was a technical legal ruling that said nothing at all about same-sex marriage, but left in place a trial court's declaration that California's voter-approved same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional. That outcome probably will allow state officials to order the resumption of same-sex weddings in the nation's most populous state in about a month.The high court said nothing about the validity of gay marriage bans in California and roughly three dozen other states. Full AP story


ROLLING UPDATES (Refresh page for more)

-Continuing Coverage on Morning Edition Begins at 3 AM PT Thursday

We are signing off of our live blogging for tonight. Thanks for visiting!

-Party Atmosphere in the Castro

KQED's Bryan Goebel reports: "The excitement and emotion in this crowd of thousands of people is overwhelming. They started closing Castro Street between Market and 19th streets around 5 o’clock, and the street quickly began filling up with people.

"This is going to be one of the largest marriage equality celebrations in California today. They’ve got two stages set up – one at Castro and Market, the other at 19th and Castro – where there are DJs; they’re going to be playing music, and a variety of speakers. I see longtime activist Steve Jones about to take the microphone on stage. I talked to the police and this official party goes until 9 o’clock, but they’re going to keep the streets open here until the party dies down."

-Bay Area Faith Leaders Speak Out

A coalition of faith leaders representing 80 congregations gathered at Grace Cathedral to celebrate today's rulings. Mitch Mayne is with Mormons for Marriage Quality: "The decisions that we heard today actually align with our Mormon faith as recorded in modern scripture, in that we believe it is unjust for a particular set of religious beliefs to be used to deny the civil rights of others."

The Rev. Deborah Johnson is with Inner Light Ministries in Santa Cruz: “We no more choose our sex than the color of our skin. And no one should be prevented from participating in their constitutional freedoms by being denied access to the basic things, like voter registration (and) a marriage license.”

The Rev. Kamal Hassan is with the Sojourner Presbyterian Church in Richmond:

“I am glad that DOMA was struck down. It did not defend marriage. It exclusivized it, and defended heterosexual privilege. it divided our communities and denied the right for everyone who wants to be married in our state to the person who they love.”

- Castro Prepares for Parties Tonight

(BAY CITY NEWS) Members of the LGBT community and their supporters will gather in  San Francisco's Castro District this evening to celebrate the U.S. Supreme  Court's rulings on Prop. 8 and on the Defense of Marriage Act.

Starting around 5 p.m., Castro Street will be closed between  Market and 19th streets, and 18th Street will be shut down between  Collingwood and Hartford streets, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

The rally starts at 6:30 p.m. with a "victory stage" at Market and  Castro streets, with performances on a second stage at 19th and Castro streets, said Marriage Equality USA national media director Stuart Gaffney.

"Our community has been on pins and needles for weeks and weeks now. We woke up this morning to wonderful news but I think a lot of us are  still taking it in," Gaffney said.

Volunteers wearing fluorescent orange vests will help patrol the Castro neighborhood, but given the nature of the ruling, security should be easy, he said. Security is expected to be stepped up for Pride celebrations this weekend. Invitations to tonight's rally have also been sent to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, members of the Board of Supervisors and other civic leaders, Gaffney said.

- Same-Sex Marriage Searches Spike

Yahoo and Google report that a number of search terms related to the Supreme Court rulings have been spiking. See which ones here.

-Around the Web ...

-DOMA: What will change, what won't

Where same-sex couples live or even where they were married will determine whether they will now receive federal benefits. Video from the NY Times ...


-Obama on DOMA

The president said "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."

Obama said he had "directed the Attorney General to work with other members of my Cabinet to review all relevant federal statutes to ensure this decision, including its implications for Federal benefits and obligations, is implemented swiftly and smoothly." Full text here

Meanwhile, Obama today congratulated Prop. 8 plaintiffs Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, and also got invited to a gay wedding ...

-It ain't over till it's over, says Prop 8 lawyer

John Eastman, professor with Chapman University’s School of Law and chair of the National Organization for Marriage, which filed a brief in support of Proposition 8, said on KQED Forum today that the court's DOMA opinion would actually impact the Prop. 8 case in a way favorable to those who oppose same-sex marriage. His argument:

DOMA’s decision by the court, which specifically says that marriage policy is a core function of the states and that the federal government can’t interfere with that, strongly suggests that Judge Walker’s opinion in the Proposition 8 case, which is the last opinion standing in the Proposition 8 case right now, is invalid and has been superseded by that DOMA decision.

Because what he did was strike down California’s effort that has its own merits policy, as reflected in Proposition 8. So I think we’ve got a lot of litigation still to go on whether that decision has to be overruled ...

We asked Vik Amar, one of SCOTUSblog's legal analysts, what he thought of Eastman's argument. Amar said that regardless of whether this was a valid legal avenue open to Prop. 8 supporters, it was unlikely to gain any traction. From Amar ...

A big question is whether anyone can validly raise this kind of argument in front of the 9th Circuit or the District Court. In light of today's Perry ruling, Prop. 8 proponents have no right to have the Ninth Circuit take another look at what Judge Walker did (or at the scope of his remedy either), and the governor and attorney general certainly are not going to ask the Ninth Circuit to do anything other than allow Judge Walker's order to go into effect.

So unless the Ninth Circuit decides, on its own, to re-examine Walker's ruling, or unless someone else (like a county clerk) successfully intervenes to defend Proposition 8 -- and both of these are unlikely -- I think the same-sex marriage train will leave the station here in California pretty soon.

-Gay and lesbian California lawmakers react

"I can stop checking on my state tax forms, ‘married.’ And then turn around and doing my federal tax form and feeling like I’m lying to the federal government when I check, ‘single.’"
-Assemblywoman Toni Atkins

"Full equality feels absolutely amazing, honey. I mean it is – I’m beside myself."
-State Sen. Ricardo Lara

"With 38 states still denying equal marriage rights, with not a single federal protection in housing, employment, public accommodation, there is a lot of work to do.
-State Sen. Mark Leno

"This is the first time in my life that I’ve felt that the law fully recognized me as being equal to everyone else. I don’t know how much more personal you can get than the concept of truly being seen as equal in the eyes of the law."
--Assembly Speaker John Perez

And Perez on the question of county clerks possibly taking it upon themselves to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples:

"They’ll have hell to pay. Could I be clearer?"

-Sacramento County prepares ...

From News10 Sacramento, how Sacramento County is preparing for same-sex marriage...


-Kamala Harris: Prop. 8 supporters are 'bystanders'

California Attorney General Kamala Harrissaid  today that ...

... today's decision "means those people who want to deny same-sex couples the benefits of equal protection and due process under the United States Constitution cannot do so simply because they don’t like the notion. The United States Supreme Court essentially declared today that they are bystanders. They are sitting in the sidelines. They can have their freedom of expression but they cannot deny Americans, they cannot deny citizens of this country equal protection and due process under the law."

Harris said she gave the governor legal advice that the "58 counties of the state of California must abide by the ruling of Vaughn Walker from the District Court when the stay is lifted and must commence marriage in California."

Harris also said she was calling on the 9th Circuit today to urge them on the strongest terms that they lift the stay and enforce the permanent injunction that Vaughn Walker outlined so that marriages can begin in California immediately ...

Here is the full press conference ...

-Tax filing for LGBT couples

The California Report's Rachael Myrow explored in 2011 how tax filing for same-sex couples is particularly complicated in light of DOMA. "You have to file as married at the state level and single at the federal level," Santa Clara University Law Professor Patricia Cain said. "So you have to file two single returns at the federal level. Then you have to fill out a mock joint return at the federal level in order to determine what your state liability is."

In May, Cain wrote a blog post called "Predicting Life After Windsor," in which she talked about a panel discussion on what might happen if the Supreme Court struck down the provision of DOMA that denies same-sex couples the ability to file a joint tax return.

[One participant] stressed the fact that we will need guidance from the IRS in the event the Supreme Court strikes down DOMA. We are all hopeful that the Taxpayer Advocate will press IRS personnel to provide that guidance as quickly as possible...

About the only sure prediction we had was that the decision would be handed down in very late June. But the discussion among the tax professionals in the room indicated that there are many that believe it is likely that the Court will strike DOMA down.

That, of course, is only the first step in figuring out how the IRS will tax all same-sex couples in the future.

-Report from city hall

Spencer Michels, PBS NewsHour's Bay Area correspondent, reports from San Francisco City Hall:

Six-thirty a.m. San Francisco’s center of government doesn’t even open until eight, but somehow hundreds of same-sex marriage supporters, dozens of reporters and cameramen, and every city official you can think of managed to crawl out of bed and show up in the ornate rotunda.

Same-sex marriage and being against Proposition 8 are the mothers’ milk of politics in this town. And it was clear that nobody in politics wanted to be left out, even though there was a chance they would be disappointed.

Mayor Ed Lee said something and so did supervisors David Campos and Scott Wiener. But it was Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the man who defied state law and authorized same-sex weddings in 2004 when he was mayor, who got the biggest hand. By his side were former mayor Willie Brown, City Attorney Dennis Herrera and every other city supervisor and state legislator who could squeeze in.

After about an hour the whole celebration and political exercise wound down –it wasn’t even 9 a.m. -- and the celebrants probably went back to bed, to get ready for more partying in the evening. Because this is San Francisco.

-Same-sex binational couples celebrate

KQED's Mina Kim reports today's ruling striking down a central provision of the Defense of Marriage Act means many of them will now be able to stay together.  Under DOMA, gay Americans have not been able to sponsor their foreign partners for a spousal visa.

For Orinda couple Brian Willingham and Alfonso Garcia, that's meant living under the threat of Garcia's deportation for years. Garcia says he burst into tears when the high court ruling came down.

"I look at my husband and I was just like, oh my god we finally did it we're married, we're recognized by the government."

The justices decision today effectively clears the way for gay partners to apply for green cards. Garcia says he will travel to Mexico to see his grandmother's resting place. She died while he was barred from traveling outside the US.

-When will 9th Circuit act?

The Supreme Court has remanded the Proposition 8 case back to the 9th Circuit with instructions for that court to dismiss the appeal by the same-sex marriage ban's backers, which would effectively reinstate Judge Vaughn Walker's ruling that Prop. 8 is unconstitutional. Until the 9th acts on that, no same-sex marriages in California will occur.

So when will that happen?

-KQED Forum discussion

KQED's Forum program today spent an hour parsing the details of the Supreme Court’s decisions, including surprises in how the justices voted, what questions remain unanswered and whether same-sex couples can take the time to plan a big wedding.

Listen here ...


-Twitter has another field day ...

More here...

-No same-sex marriages just quite yet ...

From the California Dept. of Public Health's letter to California county clerks and county recorders:

The effect of the district court's injunction is that same-sex couples will once again be allowed to marry in California. But they will not be able to marry until the Ninth Circuit issues a further order dissolving a stay of the injunction that has been in place throughout the appeal process. We do not know when the Ninth Circuit will issue this order, but it could take a month or more. County clerks and recorders should not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples until this order is issued.

-Who is left to fight for Prop. 8?

KQED's Joshua Johnson this morning talked to UC Davis law professor Vik Amar about the Prop. 8 decision. From that conversation ...

JOSHUA JOHNSON: I wonder who you think is left to fight for Prop 8? Will the fight continue in California?

VIK AMAR: The only scenario I envision is if a county clerk who feels that he should not be bound by Judge Walker’s order and that he is not controllable by the governor, from some conservative county, wants to refuse to issue marriage licenses and goes to court and says he shouldn’t be governed by any of this because he never had his day in court, he wasn’t in San Francisco defending Prop 8. That’s the only kind of individual or party left I could see to stand in the way

-Did the court "punt" on Prop. 8?

JOSHUA JOHNSON: I’m looking at a lot of coverage of Prop 8 from various news outlets and I keep seeing the word ‘punt’ come up. Is this just a punt?

VIK AMAR: I’m not sure I would characterize it as a punt, if by punt we mean something negative. But I think that the court did not want to wade into this thicket any more than it had to. It wants to see how various states are going to evolve in this arena. Remember, this is a very fast-moving landscape. Just since the oral argument in the Perry case and the Windsor case a few months ago, three additional states have recognized same-sex marriage.

Right now there are 38 states that don’t and 12 that do, although California will soon be in the column that does, but five, 10 years from now it could be 30 to 20 the other way and the court would rather decide the ultimate question against a backdrop that’s more stable than the one we have now.

-What is "standing"?

The Prop. 8 decision turned on the question of "standing." Again from Vik Amar ...

VIK AMAR:  Standing means you’re a party that belongs in court and that we can trust that you’ll represent the interests of one position in a way that allows the court to reach the merits. For example, if I voted against Prop. 8, and I thought it was a bad deal, I couldn’t sue to challenge Prop. 8 even if it offended me ... Standing makes sure we have the right parties in the case so that the courts aren’t shooting their mouths off and making new rulings just in abstract context.

JOSHUA JOHNSON: It’s also a way, as I understand it, to make sure that the people who are arguing are arguing from a position of actually being injured or harmed in some way and not just, "oh I don’t like the way this turned out."

VIK AMAR:  Yes, and usually we focus on whether the plaintiffs have standing. This was an unusual case because we were focusing on whether ... the proponents of Prop 8 had standing, and the real question is whether the proponents are adequate representatives of the voters of the State of California and the Supreme Court said that they are not. The Supreme Court said that they are private persons, they are not the same as public state officials.

More on standing here, from Cornell Law.

-Boxer, Newsom like it; NOM Doesn't

From Gavin Newsom, who was ahead of the curve on this issue when he told San Francisco's county clerks in 2004 to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, said this today ...

A city that has prided itself on being on the leading and cutting edge. Not a city of dreamers but a city of doers, of innovators and entrepreneurs. It's a special place and I think everyone of you understands a core principle that defines our values in this city and in this state and for that matter, at our best, this nation: and that is we don't just tolerate diversity, we celebrate our diversity each and every day.

And here's the statement from California's junior senator ...

Today my spirits are soaring because the Supreme Court reaffirmed the promise of America by rejecting two blatantly unconstitutional measures that discriminated against millions of our families.

I was proud to have voted against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, and it is so heartening to see that the federal government will now treat all marriages equally.

Because of the Court’s ruling on Proposition 8, millions of Californians will be able to marry the person they love – with all the rights and responsibilities that go along with it.

And from the National Organization for Marriage, which filed a brief in support of Prop. 8 in the case ...

In a miscarriage of justice the US Supreme Court has refused to consider the decision of a single federal court judge to overturn the perfectly legal action of over 7 million California voters who passed Proposition 8 defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman," said Brian Brown, NOM's president. "The Supreme Court's holding that proponents of an initiative had no legal right to appeal ignores California law and rewards corrupt politicians for abandoning their duty to defend traditional marriage laws. It's imperative that Congress continue to preserve the right of states to protect true marriage and refuse to recognize faux marriages performed in other states or countries." Full statement

-AFER celebrates

The American Foundation for Equal Rights, which sponsored the challenge to Prop. 8, held a press conference today.


-Brown, Harris: Ruling applies statewide

From a statement from Brown's office ...

In light of the decision, I have directed the California Department of Public Health to advise the state’s counties that they must begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in California as soon as the Ninth Circuit confirms the stay is lifted,” said Governor Brown.

The effect of today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling is that the 2010 federal district court’s decision that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional is left intact and the law cannot be enforced.

In response, the Governor has directed the California Department of Public Health to advise county officials today that the district court’s injunction against Proposition 8 applies statewide and that all county clerks and county registrar/recorders must comply with it. However, same-sex Californians will not be able to marry until the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals confirms the stay of the injunction, which has been in place throughout the appeals process, is lifted.

In preparation for this outcome, Governor Brown sought an opinion from California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris on whether the state, through the California Department of Public Health, can advise county clerks and registrar/recorders that they are bound by the federal district court’s ruling that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.

The Attorney General concluded that the California Department of Public Health “can and should” instruct county officials that they “must resume issuing marriage licenses to and recording the marriages of same-sex” couples. The Department will issue another letter to county officials as soon as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals confirms the stay is lifted.

The Attorney General’s letter to Governor Brown can be found here.

-Boies speaks

David Boies, one of the lead attorneys for the plaintiffs, said this on the courthouse step ...

We started out in this case. We said ... we were going to prove that marriage was a fundamental right and the other side accepted that. We said ... we were going to prove that depriving gay and lesbian citizens of the right to marry the person they loved seriously harmed them and seriously harmed the children they were raising and even the opponents agreed with that.

And third, we said that we were going to prove that allowing everyone to marry the person they loved regardless of sexual orientation did not, could not harm anyone. And not only did the opponents on cross-examination have to accept that, but today the United States Supreme Court said as much because they said the opponents have no concrete injury.


KQED's Scott Shafer reports that the Prop. 8, decision means that same-sex marriage will indeed be legal once more in California, but a question remains as to whether it will be statewide or not. (Update: Gov. Jerry Brown said today it would, and that all county clerks and county registrar/recorders in the state must comply with the district court's injunction against Prop. 8.)

There is likely to be more litigation by Prop. 8 supporters maintaining that for technical legal reasons the ruling should apply to a limited number of counties or even to only the two couples who were the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Prop. 8 defenders now have 25 days to ask for a rehearing. So at the soonest, we’ll see marriage in mid-to-late July.

While many believed that a Prop. 8 ruling on standing would make same-sex marriage legal throughout California, others believed that it would apply only in the counties where the suits were filed (Alameda and Los Angeles), and in San Francisco, which intervened in the case. Because of these complications, most counties have said they will look to the state for direction.

Although county clerks are responsible for issuing marriage licenses in California, they will likely turn to the Department of Public Health Vital Records on how to proceed, said Cathy Darling Allen, president of the California State Association of Clerks and Election Officials and the clerk in Shasta County.

"I believe we will receive some guidance," Allen told KQED's Scott Shafer.

However, a department spokesperson told Shafer that they will, in turn, look to the governor's office for guidance. Evan Westrup, a spokesman for Gov. Jerry Brown, said the governor's office wouldn't deliberate on what guidance they will give until after the court's ruling. "Lots of interesting scenarios, none of which we’d publicly comment or speculate on at this point," Westrup said by email.

And some counties may challenge a statewide rule in any event. While same-sex marriages were legal in 2008, in the time between when the court struck down Prop. 22 and the passage of Prop. 8, several counties, including Kern, Siskiyou and Butte, refused to perform civil ceremonies,  only issuing the licenses.

According to Allen, that resulted in many more couples from those counties rushing to Shasta County to have their ceremonies performed. Officials in Kern County have not said how they will proceed this time if Prop. 8 is struck down.

Interestingly, the technical challenges to performing same-sex marriages -- i.e., changing the license forms and naming conventions to be gender-neutral -- were all addressed in 2008 when about 18,000 same-sex couples were married before Prop. 8 passed, said Allen. That means this time, they'll be "ready to go," she said.

Officials have said there could be a 25-day waiting period before marriages resume, meaning the earliest that ceremonies could be performed would be mid-July. However, even this is uncertain. Most cities and counties are preparing to be ready to issue a flood of licenses on Day One, should same-sex marriage be legalized. According to NBC Bay Area, San Francisco has even begun training volunteers to oversee impromptu weddings.

“We anticipate that it could be as much as 200 people who come down to City Hall,” said San Francisco County Administrator Naomi Kelly. “We just want to make sure that anyone who wants to get married on that day can.”

To prepare, the city is training dozens of volunteers to become deputy clerks. The volunteers are made up of mostly city employees giving up time to learn everything from how to administer vows to inputting legal data.

Full AP story

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a major victory for gay rights, the Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down a provision of a federal law denying federal benefits to married gay couples and cleared the way for the resumption of same-sex marriage in California.

The justices issued two 5-4 rulings in their final session of the term. One decision wiped away part of a federal anti-gay marriage law that has kept legally married same-sex couples from receiving tax, health and pension benefits.

The other was a technical legal ruling that said nothing at all about same-sex marriage, but left in place a trial court's declaration that California's Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. That outcome probably will allow state officials to order the resumption of same-sex weddings in the nation's most populous state in about a month.

In a sign that neither victory was complete, the high court said nothing about the validity of gay marriage bans in California and roughly three dozen other states. And a separate provision of the federal marriage law that allows a state to not recognize a same-sex union from elsewhere remains in place.

President Barack Obama telephoned his congratulations to the plaintiffs in the California case from Air Force One en route to Africa.

The ruling in that case was not along ideological lines. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Antonin Scalia.

"We have no authority to decide this case on the merits, and neither did the 9th Circuit," Roberts said, referring to the federal appeals court that also struck down Proposition 8.

In the case involving the federal Defense of Marriage Act, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, joined by the court's liberal justices.

"Under DOMA, same-sex married couples have their lives burdened, by reason of government decree, in visible and public ways," Kennedy said.

"DOMA's principal effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal," he said.

Some in the crowd outside the court hugged and others jumped up and down just after 10 a.m. EDT Wednesday when the DOMA decision was announced. Many people were on their cell phones monitoring Twitter, news sites and blogs for word of the decision. And there were cheers as runners came down the steps with the decision in hand and turned them over to reporters who quickly flipped through the decisions.

Chants of "Thank you" and "USA" came from the crowd as plaintiffs in the cases descended the court's marbled steps. Most of those in the crowd appeared to support gay marriage, although there was at least one man who held a sign promoting marriage as between a man and a woman.

Kennedy was joined in the DOMA decision by the court's four liberal justices.

Chief Justice John Roberts, Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, and Scalia dissented.

Same-sex marriage has been adopted by 12 states and the District of Columbia. Another 18,000 couples were married in California during a brief period when same-sex unions were legal there.

The outcome is clear for people who were married and live in states that allow same-sex marriage. They now are eligible for federal benefits.

The picture is more complicated for same-sex couples who traveled to another state to get married, or who have moved from a gay marriage state since being wed.

Their eligibility depends on the benefits they are seeking. For instance, immigration law focuses on where people were married, not where they live. But eligibility for Social Security survivor benefits basically depends on where a couple is living when a spouse dies.


The rulings came 10 years to the day after the court's Lawrence v. Texas decision that struck down state bans on gay sex. In his dissent at the time, Scalia predicted the ruling would lead to same-sex marriage.