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Love Wins: After Decades of Struggle, Marriage Equality Now the Law of the Land

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Same-sex weddings took place across the country this weekend after the Supreme Court ruled that all 50 states must now permit LGBTQ couples “the fundamental right to marry.” The historic decision puts an end to marriage equality bans that remained in 14 states, impacting tens of thousands of couples. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said, “Changed understandings of marriage are characteristic of a Nation where new dimensions of freedom become apparent to new generations.” He added, “It demeans gays and lesbians for the State to lock them out of a central institution of the Nation’s society.” Advocates note there is more work to be done in the fight for LGBT rights, a point highlighted at many of this weekend’s Pride celebrations. We are joined by two of the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage case, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, who went to court in Michigan to win the right to jointly adopt each other’s children, and Marc Solomon, the national campaign director of Freedom to Marry.

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Video squareStoryJun 29, 2015With Marriage Equality Won, LGBTQ Activism Continues for Bias Protections & Overlooked Trans Issues
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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Same-sex weddings took place across the country this weekend after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Friday all 50 states must now permit same-sex couples the, quote, “fundamental right to marry.” The ruling puts an end to same-sex marriage bans that remained in 14 states—Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, most of Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas. The court’s decision could impact some 70,000 couples living in these states, out of an estimated one million same-sex couples nationwide.

Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said, quote, “Changed understandings of marriage are characteristic of a Nation where new dimensions of freedom become apparent to new generations.” He added, it, quote, “demeans gays and lesbians for the State to lock them out of a central institution of the Nation’s society.”

Well, on Friday, President Obama hailed the landmark ruling but pointed out that not everyone was in agreement.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I know that Americans of good will continue to hold a wide range of views on this issue. Opposition, in some cases, has been based on sincere and deeply held beliefs. All of us who welcome today’s news should be mindful of that fact, recognize different viewpoints, revere our deep commitment to religious freedom. But today should also give us hope that on the many issues with which we grapple, often painfully, real change is possible.

AMY GOODMAN: Supreme Court rulings generally take 25 days to go into effect. In Louisiana and Mississippi, they say they’ll continue to refuse marriage licenses for same-sex couples as they await legal formalities. Meanwhile, the Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton, said Sunday, county clerks and judges can refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples based on religious objections, and said the state would assist them in defending their beliefs.

All of this comes as advocates note there is more work to be done in the fight for LGBT rights, a point highlighted at many of this weekend’s Pride celebrations. Protesters at Chicago’s Pride Parade on Sunday staged a die-in to draw attention to ongoing issues like housing and job discrimination and violent attacks on transgender people.

We’ll talk more about all of this in our next segment, but first we go first to Detroit, Michigan, where we’re joined by two of the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage case. April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse initially went to court in Michigan to win the right to jointly adopt each other’s children. They then challenged the state’s ban on same-sex marriage since joint adoption in Michigan is tied to marriage. And here in New York, we’re joined by Marc Solomon, national campaign director of Freedom to Marry, also author of Winning Marriage: The Inside Story of How Same-Sex Couples Took on the Politicians and Pundits—and Won. This is Democracy Now!, as we go to Detroit to get reaction to this historic decision on same-sex marriage.

April and Jayne, your response to the court’s decision?

APRIL DEBOER: You know, I mean, obviously we are happy that our family will finally be a legal, recognized family, once Jayne and I put our wedding together and get married and second-parent adopt our children.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Jayne, when he heard the Supreme Court decision announced on Friday morning, just after 10:00 Eastern Standard Time, how did you feel?

JAYNE ROWSE: You know, I felt that the court had done the right thing, that they recognized that we were not second-class citizens anymore and that our children deserve protections like everyone else and that they weren’t treated like second-class citizens anymore.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, Michigan is one of 14 states that had a ban on same-sex marriage. That gets lifted. In Texas, the attorney general says the court clerks and others don’t have to participate in, be a part of, any kind of same-sex marriage ceremony. Marc Solomon, can you respond to this latest showdown?

MARC SOLOMON: Yeah, it’s pretty unconscionable. I think that, you know, the decision was very clear. It was a powerful decision by the Supreme Court. And the clerks in Texas will need to provide marriage licenses to same-sex couples who come in to seek to marry, and every county is going to need to provide those licenses.

AMY GOODMAN: And what about other states? What are they saying?

MARC SOLOMON: I think things are going to go very smoothly. We had—Bobby Jindal yesterday said that Louisiana is going to perform marriages. There’s really—you know, the Supreme Court is the final arbiter of this question. And some politicians, who haven’t caught up with where the public is, will make a fuss, but I’m confident that in the next couple days everything will have been taken care of and gays, gay couples, same-sex couples, will be able to marry nationwide.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Attorney General Ken Paxton of Texas saying that county clerks can refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples based on religious objections to gay marriage. In a formal opinion, he stated, “Friday, the [United States] Supreme Court again ignored the text and spirit of the Constitution to manufacture a right that simply does not exist. In so doing, the court weakened itself and weakened the rule of law, but did nothing to weaken our resolve to protect religious liberty and return to democratic self-government in the face of judicial activists attempting to tell us how to live,” unquote. He went on to add, quote, “Judges and justices of the peace have no mandatory duty to conduct any wedding ceremony.”

MARC SOLOMON: Yeah, I really disagree, and I think that the courts will disagree with that perspective. If you’re a public employee, you know, and you are mandated by the government to provide marriage licenses, you can’t pick and choose who you want to provide a marriage license to. So, you know, I think that will—that effort will fail in Texas.

AMY GOODMAN: So, April DeBoer, can you explain the linkage between adoption and marriage? What first motivated you to get involved with this case?

APRIL DEBOER: Well, here in Michigan, we are not allowed—we are not allowed to second-parent adopt each other’s children, so the law here states that only married couples and single people can adopt, so only married couples can adopt. And obviously, we could not get married here in the state of Michigan. So, we were actually seeking to overturn just the second-parent adoption law, initially, and then were guided into fighting for the marriage ban, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Jayne, you announced plans to adopt another child, is that right, after the announcement came down on Friday?

JAYNE ROWSE: Yes, we do have a fifth adoption in the works. Not coincidentally, her name will be Kennedy. And hopefully by the end of the summer, she’ll be adopted.

AMY GOODMAN: And when do you plan to get married?

JAYNE ROWSE: Well, that’s the million-dollar question I believe everybody wants to know. We’re working on it. We’re getting some plans together. So, hopefully by the end of summer, we’ll have everything worked out.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, who will be the judge in—who will officiate over your marriage?

JAYNE ROWSE: Judge Bernard Friedman, who was our trial judge and the judge that recommended we change our second-parent adoption case to a marriage case. We asked him Friday.

AMY GOODMAN: Marc Solomon, your reaction to Judge Roberts’ dissenting opinion?

MARC SOLOMON: I thought it was really unfortunate and sort of mean. I think he was essentially saying that, you know, gay and lesbian folks, same-sex couples, you know, continue to go at it in legislatures, on ballot initiatives. But, you know, our Constitution guarantees that fundamental liberties are fundamental liberties.

AMY GOODMAN: He said, quote, “The Court invalidates the marriage laws of more than half the States and orders the transformation of a social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia, for the Kalahari Bushmen and the Han Chinese, the Carthaginians and the Aztecs. Just who do we think we are?”

MARC SOLOMON: Yeah, I saw Judge Posner, who is also a Reagan appointee, who wrote a response to that and was talking about how the Aztecs actually sliced the hearts out of the people that they conquered, and said that’s not the image that we’re looking to replicate. Look, the Constitution guarantees fundamental liberties and guarantees equal protection under the law, and that’s exactly what Justice Kennedy and the majority did.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the significance of the 14th Amendment in this ruling and explain what it is?

MARC SOLOMON: Sure. The 14th Amendment is an extraordinarily powerful amendment. It essentially takes the promise in the Declaration of Independence of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and the notion that all people are created equal, and puts it in the—you know, puts it in the Constitution. So it says that fundamental liberties, like the right to marry, can’t be denied. And Kennedy says that, you know, for same-sex couples, that’s the only—you know, the only person they’re going to marry is someone of the same gender, and they shouldn’t be denied. So that’s sort of number one. And then, number two, it guarantees equal protection under the law. And, you know, what could be more unequal than saying that straight couples can marry and gay couples can’t? So, it is a powerful guarantee of the promise of the Declaration of Independence to all Americans.

AMY GOODMAN: Jayne Rowse, how did your kids respond?

JAYNE ROWSE: Well, they’re still not quite understanding everything that’s going on. Their concept is that the whole family is getting married, so they’re looking forward to the day. Our daughter wants to wear princess outfits. Our sons—our oldest son wants to wear a tuxedo. I’m not sure if our youngest son has an opinion on that or not. But their concept is that we’re all getting married.

AMY GOODMAN: And your neighbors, your community?

APRIL DEBOER: You know, they have been amazingly supportive through this whole thing. We’ve gotten congratulations and lots of hugs. And, you know, like I said, they’ve just been supportive.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you ever think this day would come?

JAYNE ROWSE: I never thought in my lifetime. I’ve been out since I was 16, and it was always a dream in the LGBTQ community, but I don’t think any of us ever thought it would happen in our lifetime. Hopefully in our kids’ lifetimes, but not in ours.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, congratulations to you both, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, two of the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court same-sex marriage case. Thanks for joining us from Detroit, Michigan. And, Marc Solomon, national campaign director of Freedom to Marry, author of Winning Marriage: The Inside Story of How Same-Sex Couples Took on the Politicians and Pundits—and Won, I’d like you to stay for our next segment as we talk about where the struggle goes from here. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: That’s right. That’s “Amazing Grace,” sung by President Obama Friday at the funeral of the Honorable Reverend Clementa Pinckney in Charleston, South Carolina, one of the nine victims of the massacre that took place on June 17th. Later in the broadcast, we’ll bring you more of that funeral and also the words of the woman who shimmied up the flagpole on the state Capitol grounds in Columbia and pulled down the Confederate battle flag on Saturday. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

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With Marriage Equality Won, LGBTQ Activism Continues for Bias Protections & Overlooked Trans Issues

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