This morning the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a historic ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8, serving as a decisive victory for gay rights activists across the country. Both DOMA and Proposition 8 were ruled unconstitutional, upholding an earlier ruling by a San Francisco district court. Both decisions have received widespread support, especially among Washington's political and social leaders.
“I could not be more proud and excited to see the U.S. Supreme Court take a long overdue stand for equality, fairness and family," said Governor Jay Inslee in a statement. "Marriage is for two people in love and it is past time for our country to not just recognize that, but honor it. Washington state is a leader in marriage equality and today’s ruling means the benefits and recognition of marriage offered to couples here in our state will be offered equally across our nation.”
Openly gay Metropolitan King County Councilmember Joe McDermott also expressed his personal conviction and excitement. “I am filled with simply overwhelming pride today as the U.S. Supreme Court overturns DOMA!" he exclaimed. "This equality extends from military couples to seniors on Social Security, reaching so many hardworking families and providing them the security they deserve.”
Congressman Adam Smith and Representative Rick Larsen decisively echoed his positive response. Larsen continued to look to the larger political picture, pushing for equality in other social arenas as well, mainly through employment equality protection laws.
The decision wasn’t happily embraced by all, however. Joseph Backholm, Executive Director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, a Lynnwood-based traditional values group that has been a leading voice against marriage equality, issued a statement announcing his disapproval. “The Supreme Court got it wrong when it said that the state can tell the federal government how it must define marriage," he said. "The federal government, on behalf of those who elected them, should be able to recognize the unique value of relationships that provide children a mother and father.”
As a Seattle PI article by Joel Connelly reports, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops also denounced the decision, calling it "a tragic day for marriage and our nation.” Still, Connelly was quick to remind readers that, while the Supreme Court ruling may run counter to the ideologies of the Cathoilic clergy, the popular opinion on marriage equality is quickly changing — a majority of Americans, and even practicing Catholic Americans, now support marriage equality.
Social Outreach Seattle, a group partnered with various civil rights groups around the state, including Equal Rights Washington, the ACLU, Greater Seattle Business Association and the Pride Foundation posted on Facebook, “This is too big of a historical moment to just let pass by without a reaction from the community.” The group's celebration plans are already underway. They will host a rally at 5 p.m. in front of the U.S. Appeals Court in Seattle.
Congresswoman Suzan DelBene, reacting from D.C., reminded her constituents of Washington state's existing marriage equality legislation and the role the state has played in advancing the conversation around marriage equality. “Last year, the voters of Washington said loud and clear that all loving couples should be allowed to marry. For married gay and lesbian couples throughout the country, today’s ruling means that they are now clearly eligible for all the federal protections and responsibilities afforded to other married couples.”
King County Executive Dow Constantine mirrored her reaction. “I am proud that King County and Washington for helping to nudge the
Among local cultural leaders, the response was more one-sided. Dan Savage tweeted, “Human rights are universal, marriage is a human right, gay people are human, we exist in this universe. #NotThatComplicated”. See Crosscut's collection of cultural leaders' reactions on social media.
The ruling comes within a day of the announcement that the Seattle Mariners will fly the gay pride flag at a game on Sunday afternoon against the Chicago Cubs, becoming the first MLB team in history to do so. The game also coincides with the 39th annual Seattle Pride Parade, which is celebrating “Equality: Passed, Present & Future” this year.
Social issues can define entire generations — the Civil Rights movement set the tone for racial equality being a central issue for the baby boomers. For Millennials, and other observers of history, this decision is just that: real social change in the works.