U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb today struck down the discriminatory amendment to the Wisconsin state constitution preventing same-sex couples from marrying. The American Civil Liberties Union had challenged the law on behalf of eight couples seeking the freedom to marry in Wisconsin or to have their out-of-state marriages recognized. Two of the plaintiffs, Kami Young and Karina Willes of West Milwaukee, were legally married last year in Minnesota and have a newborn daughter. But because Young is the birth mother, she is the only one who is recognized as the legal parent on the birth certificate.
“Our daughter has two parents who love her dearly,” said Willes. “I am no less a mother to her than Kami is, and she deserves the security of having both of her parents legally recognized. Our daughter shouldn’t have second-class protections.” “We are tremendously happy that these loving and committed couples will now be able to access the security and recognition that only marriage provides,” said Larry Dupuis, legal director of the ACLU of Wisconsin. “These discriminatory laws are falling around the country and it is only right that Wisconsin move forward as well.
Part of Friday’s ruling reads: “It is DECLARED that art. XIII, § 13 of the Wisconsin Constitution violates plaintiffs’ fundamental right to marry and their right to equal protection of laws under the Fourteenth Amendment.
Judge Crabb referenced SCOTUS’ decisions in the WINDSOR ruling (not the Prop 8 Case) 12 times in her decision.
U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (WI-02), a co-chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus, today issued the following statement on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin’s ruling that Wisconsin’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional: “The federal district court in Madison took another step toward ensuring full equality for every American. It is clear the growing momentum of support for marriage equality will put an end to discriminatory laws that treat LGBT couples as second-class citizens. In ruling after ruling, it has become unmistakable that the promise of America is everyone should be treated equally and with dignity. Today’s ruling brings us one step closer to fulfilling that promise.”
Meanwhile, County clerks in Milwaukee and Madison are trying to figure out if and when they could begin issuing marriage licenses. Milwaukee County Clerk Joe Czarnezki said he was keeping his office open while an attorney reviewed the decision in case he could begin accepting marriage licenses Friday evening.
Judge Crabb referenced SCOTUS’ decisions in the WINDSOR ruling (not the Prop 8 Case) 12 times in her decision.
What a monumental day in our nation’s history to finally see the wheels of change honor the integrity of freedom. To come closer than ever in making the words written by our forefathers centuries ago guaranteeing of all of us being treated equally. I am beyond ecstatic about today’s ruling. It means a great deal to me to see the joy and love between two people that have built a life together and fought so hard to have the same rights as straight couples finally be afforded the same right. As of today, 13 states have full and equal marriage. To see so many couples today celebrate and look at each other with joy in knowing they won’t have to leave this country in order to share their lives with each other.
The warmth my heart felt knowing the beautiful love and union between Edith Windsor and her wife Thea Spyer, was legal, was recognized and it had given validation to a woman that kept the love of her departed so close to her heart. So much that it brings tears to my eyes with joy to think this woman has inspired us to stand and fight when we have been treated unfairly.
But I did not feel it as much as I wanted to. A part of me held back and tried to reconcile the tension I still felt with the historic moment in LGBT history. And I knew after a few moments what it was. “We are not finished yet. We haven’t even begun to fight.” Maybe that’s why my mood became muted. Because the Supreme Court did not rule completely in our favor as I’d hoped, even with how unlikely that outcome. It made me feel like an outsider because I was holding back on celebrating with passion so many of my friends were exuding.
And then I was angry. Angry at myself because despite the fact that it was not a sweeping victory it was all the same a monumental step forward so I felt this emotion was taking away from the joyous occasion that so many in this community are celebrating. It was giving me a migraine because that phrase kept coming to mind. So I laid down to calm my thoughts and asked why I felt this way. But my feelings were grounded in truth.
Is it because I know that in the remaining 37 states in this country, including my home state of Tennessee has a very long, hard battle ahead now that it is truly up to the states to decide the rights of millions of Americans. That the couples living here in the rural south that have worked their entire lives and entered long-term relationships for decades still do not have those federal rights that the New Colony states now have. Can still be denied the legal right to call the love of their life their husband or wife.
Or that as an African American it will be an even harder battle because of the Supreme Court’s decision to remove some provisions from the VRA. Some believe this means that states like Tennessee can rezone voting populations of any minority or pose extremely stringent regulations to keep other ethnic minorities from voting altogether to scheme and potentially win elections. To also deny us our right to marry. Who’s to say that this tactic wouldn’t be used against heavily populated LGBT areas to further prevent marriage equality in other states? All because enough justices felt that we live in a post racial society. I would say the family of Trayvon Martin greatly disagrees with that sentiment.
Neither I nor any other LGBT citizen of this country should have to move in order to have the same rights and if the deplorable actions of the GOP state senators from Texas last night are any indication of a time table of when all states will see marriage equality may be another generation. Or more. If we stay complacent. So that means that there would be another Edith Windsor, this time from the south would have to endure the same pain of having to fight the government in order for her rights as a citizen to be honored.
And that’s why we have to fight now. That’s why we can’t just celebrate and get to work tomorrow on today’s problem. Because each moment we wait is still a moment too long someone is being denied the freedom to love and share their life with someone. We cannot wait and stop to just celebrate this victory. As we are gathering in bars and rooftop parties and in the streets tonight we need to also be discussing how we move forward because we have so much more work to do.
This doesn’t only pertain to marriage equality. We as a community are being denied more rights that affect our livelihood. We still can be fired for being LGBT in over half of the states in this country. So the decision of the Supreme Court today should give us more wind in our sails not tell us to dock safely at shore and sail another day.
Our persistence has begun to pay off and we are at the allegorical light where we make new beginnings. But we are still in that tunnel. Our journey for true and full equality has not ended. It has only gained momentum. It made me resentful towards the leaders in this community that decided to focus only on marriage equality and completely ignored the other rights that are just as important to our way of life. So we can celebrate our victory tonight but at the same time cannot afford to forget even for a moment how much more work needs to be done.
I felt enormous guilt for my thoughts because again it appeared like I was taking a poignant moment away from those who also deserve it. But I should have no shame in how I feel because we are not done yet because we ALL deserve it. We all deserve the same rights and we all still face more foul, underhanded scare tactics that pretend to be the word of God from the mouths of man and tell us how to live our lives. So until we have completely won we must be willing to fight for ALL our rights.
So I ask everyone that had their marriage fully recognized to continue to fight. I know many have spoken the same words that I am writing today in how necessary it is for us to fight and have vowed to keep fighting. But we ALL must be a part of the solution so there is no longer room for complacency on our part. That means organizations like HRC and GLAAD need to implement more advocacy not just in marriage equality, but ALL other rights we are being denied. Remember that these organizations that are celebrating right now were the same ones that were too afraid to even bring these cases up for the Supreme Court. We are in the middle of it so we can no longer tiptoe around the issues. The GOP is not wasting any time already looking for ways to overturn today’s decision, so we can’t waste time either.
To those couples that don’t have to leave the country to continue to fight because we still need your help for states like Florida, Texas, and Arizona that have higher populations of binational LGBT couples hoping they don’t have to move or even worse separate. Hold on to that joy and use it to help initiate equality so that no other family has to endure what you’ve gone through.
Our fight for equality is not over. We cannot rest until we are all equal.
Despite wasting over $1.5 million dollars of tax payers money John Boehner and House Republicans have spent to pay private attorney Paul Clement, a former U.S. solicitor general under the Bush administration, to defend DOMA, again today they were dealt another loss as the U.S. Second Circuit of Appeals has upheld and earlier ruling in the Edith Windsor versus the United States of America that DOMA the Defense of Marriage Act is indeed unconstitutional.
Legally the case is about the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 While Windsor was treated as her spouse under New York State law, and she was allowed to inherit what her spouse had left her without being taxed, the same as any heterosexual surviving spouse.
But under federal law, it was a very different story. Under DOMA, the United States government does not recognize marriages between members of the same gender, and thus will not confer any legal spousal benefits to homosexuals, including the ability to sponsor a foreign partner, file taxes jointly, or bequeath property without taxation. So Windsor was ordered by the IRS to pay $360,000 by the IRS.
A federal district court agreed with them—one of five such district-court losses the anti-gay law has suffered—handing Windsor her first legal victory.
But House Speaker John Boehner instructed the (un) Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) to defend the law in court and appealed it to the Second Circuit.
And today the Second Circuit applied heightened scrutiny, or “intermediate scrutiny” as they called it in the opinion to uphold the federal district courts finding that DOMA is indeed unconstitutional with one judge concurring in parts and dissenting in others, writing that the law would be constitutional if reviewed under the more lenient rational basis standard of review.
Note of interest. Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs, who is one of the most conservative judges on the Second Circuit wrote the opinion.
The ACLU Press Release:
A federal appeals court ruled today that the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) unconstitutionally discriminates against married same-sex couples. In striking down DOMA, the court held that government discrimination against lesbians and gay men now is assumed to be unconstitutional and that DOMA’s defenders could not offer any good reason for treating married same-sex couples differently from all other married couples. This is the first federal appeals court decision to decide that government discrimination against gay people gets a more exacting level of judicial review, known as “heightened scrutiny.” The law had been challenged by Edith “Edie” Windsor, who sued the federal government for failing to recognize her marriage to her partner Thea Spyer, after Spyer’s death in 2009. Windsor and Spyer, who were a couple for 44 years, were married in Canada in 2007, and were considered married by their home state of New York. “This law violated the fundamental American principle of fairness that we all cherish,” said Windsor. “I know Thea would have been so proud to see how far we have come in our fight to be treated with dignity.”
In her lawsuit, Windsor argued that DOMA violates the equal protection guarantee of the U.S. Constitution because it requires the government to treat same-sex couples who are legally married as strangers. Windsor’s lawsuit was filed by the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union