Toledoans react to Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriageWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
Updated with additional comments at 10:30 a.m. June 27
The United States Supreme Court ruled June 26 that same-sex married couples are entitled to the same federal rights as other married couples. Members of Toledo’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and allied community (LGBTQA) said while they are elated with the decision, there’s still more work to be done.
“Today’s decision is really a historic victory for equal rights. I think the Supreme Court has once again affirmed that America has no second-class citizens,” said David Mann, spokesperson for Equality Toledo.
The Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which had prohibited same-sex married couples from accessing federal benefits, and also ruled on Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage. Proponents of the ban should not have been able to appeal previous rulings against the ban, according to the Supreme Court. California is expected to resume allowing same-sex marriage.
Lexi Staples, executive director of the Pride of Toledo Foundation, said, “I’m thrilled the LGBTQA community is becoming more accepted and that fact is being recognized widely. We have a long way to go … but ding, dong the DOMA’s dead!”
DOMA was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996. Many supporters of DOMA, including Clinton, have since recanted their stances.
Mann stressed that these decisions are not the end of the battle, since same-sex marriage is not legal in Ohio and other states.
“The challenge is while DOMA is still unconstitutional, Ohioans still do not have rights to marriage,” he said.
“There are a number of rights LGBT Ohioans still do not have access to, so I think the battle now comes back to the community.”
Same-sex couples in Ohio who were legally married in other states are now eligible for federal benefits and programs, according to a news release from Equality Ohio. Still, at a state level, Ohio does not have to recognize marriages performed in other states.
University of Toledo law professor Rebecca Zietlow said in a news release, “As the states decide same-sex couples can legally marry, it will be recognized not only in the states where they live, but also under federal law. This is a huge decision and will impact many regarding federal tax and social security benefits.”
Another UT law professor, Lee Strang, said, “If you’re a fan of same-sex marriage you’ve seen some movement in your direction. If you are a fan of traditional marriage, you haven’t seen the Supreme Court mandate same-sex marriage.”
Elyzabeth Holford, executive director of Equality Ohio, said in a news release, “We are celebrating today. For same-sex couples legally married and living in Ohio, this is a real game changer. For the first time they can file their federal taxes jointly – of course, they’ll have to file their state taxes individually. This is a huge step in the right direction. It is recognition of loving, partnered families. It allows for the dignity of recognized relationships. We’ve still got work to do for full equality here in Ohio, but today we joyously celebrate.”
On June 26, Equality Ohio hosted pop-up parties in eight cities across the state for the LGBTQA community.
The Superior Street Tony Packo’s was the Toledo party destination. The event was planned regardless of the outcome, but it was a celebration in the end.
“I think it’s a great moment in history and I’m proud to be here to see it,” Civil Liberties Union member Sue Carter said at the party. “I believe in justice for all.”
Carter said she celebrated instantly when she heard the news.
“I ran into the house; I got all my equality flags; I stuck them in my yard,” she said. “I felt like I was watching history being made. This is like women getting the right to vote. I mean it’s huge. It’s an important issue.”
Her husband, Mike Ferner, said now people can concentrate on bigger issues.
“We can move on to other issues like why people aren’t working and why don’t we have health care … and let people live their private lives like they want to live them.”
Ferner is optimistic about Ohio’s future.
“This issue in on the ascendant and there’s just going to be more and more equality,” Ferner said.
Prop 8 was also a topic of discussion at the event.
“I don’t think people can vote away people’s equality,” Carter said. “You can’t just go to the voting booth and say ‘I don’t want this black person to have any rights;’ ‘I don’t want this woman to vote;’ ‘I don’t want these people to be married.’ That’s not what our country’s about. I think this decision will show that you can’t vote away people’s rights and equality.”
Brent Rabie, who’s on the board of directors for Equality Toledo, was at the party after an “eventful” and “exciting” day. When news broke of DOMA being ruled unconstitutional, Rabie said he was “pounding away” on Facebook.
As a gay man, the news hit him personally.
“One day I could get married and get along with that phase of my life like everyone else can,” Rabie said. He added that he sees himself getting married in the future.
–Staff Writer Matt Liasse contributed to this report.