The U.S. Supreme Court on June 26 ruled 5-4 in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage, eliminating bans in 13 states and extending marriage equality nationwide.
Marriage equality advocates hailed the ruling Friday morning. Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer called the day “extraordinary.”
“Today, across America, the freedom to marry no longer depends on the state in which you live,” Feuer said.
The Supreme Court’s decision is personal for Feuer. In 2008, he performed a same-sex marriage for his brother in Los Angeles. Had the couple decided to stay in California, the marriage would have been legal, but they left the state.
“They returned to their home in Kansas, which does not recognize their marriage, until today,” Feuer said. “It is very exciting today for families, like my brother’s, across the United States.”
While same-sex marriage is legal in California, Feuer said the U.S. Supreme Court decision is significant for Angelenos.
“A family that’s married here in Los Angeles and may, for example, have a business or a personal reason to move to another state, can move freely knowing that the sanctity of their marriage will be recognized by any state to which they might move,” he said.
Feuer’s office has been directly involved in the Obergefell v. Hodges case, writing a brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the National League of Cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, 226 mayors and 39 cities, including Los Angeles, in support of marriage equality.
“What is more intrinsic to what it is to be a person than to marry the person we love?” Feuer asked. “That’s at the core of the Supreme Court’s decision. That’s at the core of the value that we here in Los Angeles stand for, and I believe that it’s at the core of the values of the vast majority of Americans. The bottom line is, for Los Angelenos, there is new freedom across the nation, and for everyone in every part of our country, we are a nation that took a fundamental step forward to recognize the principles of equality that grounds our Constitution.”
A primary reason why Feuer’s office got involved with the case, he said, was the positive effects the court’s decision will have for children and families.
“Marriage equality strengthens our nation, strengthens bonds between parents and children and more deeply solidifies our communities,” he said. “Now kids can go with their families anywhere in the United States not living in fear that somehow in some states to which they might move, that family might be destabilized, the dignity and strength of that family might be diminished. Not anymore.”
The decision on June 26 was made on the anniversaries of other significant U.S. Supreme Court decisions on marriage equality. On June 26, 2003, the court ruled it was unconstitutional to make it a crime for same-sex couples to engage in sexual conduct.
Also on the same date in 2013, the court ruled the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional.
“Think how far our nation has evolved,” Feuer said. “A discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act in the 1990s, and 20 years later, an acknowledgement by the Supreme Court that that law is yesterday.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti echoed Feuer’s viewpoint on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage laws.
“[The] historic Supreme Court ruling is a testament that bias has no place in our laws,” Garcetti said. “I’m proud that Los Angeles has long championed marriage equality. This is not only a victory for freedom, inclusion and love, but for the union of a nation founded on the principle that all Americans deserve to be treated equally.”
Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, 13th District, one of three openly gay elected officials in the city, agreed.
“This is a joyous, historic day in our great country. Americans will no longer be marginalized for who they love. The psychological damage to the LGBT community by denying full equality is profound and incalculable. As we march to enlightenment as a civilization, let us not forget those who are no longer with us, who were ostracized and suffered in silence throughout their lives. From this day forward, that will no longer be the case, and that is worth celebrating.”
The local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and supporters celebrated the decision.
West Hollywood, which has long been at the forefront of the fight for marriage equality and LGBT legal rights, is planning to celebrate “Decision Day” at a rally with LGBT leaders and community organizations at 6 p.m. on June 26 at West Hollywood Park, 647 N. San Vincent Blvd.
“Today is a proud moment in our nation’s history,” West Hollywood Mayor Lindsey Horvath said. “Marriage equality is now the law of the land, bestowing upon all couples the legal benefits and protections afforded by our government. We celebrate this important victory for LGBT rights as we continue the struggle for full equality among all people.”
In 1985, West Hollywood was one of the first cities in the country to adopt a domestic partnership ordinance. In June 2008, the city, in conjunction with the Los Angeles County Register-Recorder, began issuing marriage licenses and performing ceremonies for same-sex couples after the California Supreme Court ruled that a ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. City officials have performed hundreds of civil ceremonies since.
“We have come a long way since West Hollywood was part of the founding of Equality California in 2000 to secure marriage equality in our state,” West Hollywood City Councilman John J. Duran said.
“This is a great victory,” Councilman John Heilman added. “When West Hollywood adopted domestic partnership legislation 30 years ago, we were the first city to provide legal recognition for same-sex couples.”
Los Angeles LGBT Center CEO Lorri Jean also hailed the decision, and acknowledged the recent, rapid change in public opinion about marriage equality.
“To be honest, for much of my life, I never thought I’d ever live to see this day,” Jean said. “But here we are. For the first time, we have been acknowledged by the nation’s highest court as deserving the rights and privileges of full citizenship, or to paraphrase one of our great founding documents, that we too possess certain unalienable rights, that we too have full claim on the Jeffersonian promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California, a statewide LGBT civil rights organization, praised the court’s decision.
“The Supreme Court recognized that thousands of loving, committed couples from coast to coast don’t fall into a ‘lesser than’ category because they’re comprised of two men or two women. [The] decision isn’t a victory just for those couples and their families, it’s a stunning win for all Americans who value freedom and equality.” He also cited the work of Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Center for Lesbian Rights as paving the way to the decision.
However, he said it is important to remember the fight for equality for LGBT individuals is not over.
“Across the country, we can still be fired, evicted or denied service in restaurants, hotels or other businesses because of who we are. LGBT youth still experience bullying in schools and are four times more likely to attempt suicide. LGBT adults also experience high rates of poverty and violence. In California, the transgender community is the target of yet another ballot initiative effort by right wing extremists that would strip away their most basic dignity. And more than a quarter million LGBT undocumented immigrants in California have no access to healthcare.”
Federal lawmakers also praised the decision.
“I join millions around the nation in celebrating the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges making marriage equality the law of the land,” said Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Burbank). “This is a historic day for our country as we fulfill the promise of equality to millions of people who were previously denied this inalienable right. State bans on same-sex marriage are finally being labeled what they are, unconstitutional, creating legal protections that reflect the dignity of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) was one of only 14 senators to oppose the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.
“The only place where DOMA — and other discriminatory laws — belong is in the history books,” she said. “I could not be more thrilled to share in their happiness on this historic day.”
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) also issued a statement in response to the ruling.
“My heart is full of joy because the Supreme Court recognized that all Americans should be able to marry the person they love.”
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