DOMA Has Fallen

As expected, the Supreme Court has handed the decision over California’s Prop 8 back to the lower courts (all of which held that it was Unconstitutional). Now gay marriage will resume in CA. What SCOTUS didn’t do, as many gay liberals had hoped they would, was declare all gay marriage laws Unconstitutional, throwing the doors wide open for gay marriage everywhere, regardless of state laws and in violation of state’s rights.

What they DID do, however, was strike down DOMA. That is a consolation we can definitely live with.

What does that mean? It means that the federal government cannot legally deny benefits to same-sex couples married in states where gay marriage is legal. It also means that states where gay marriage is banned cannot continue to deny the benefits of married couples to those same-sex families. SCOTUS declared DOMA to be a violation of both equal treatment/due process (Fifth Amendment) and the Full Faith and Credit Clause (Article IV, Section I of the Constitution). In short, the federal government cannot pass a law that singles out gay couples to be denied certain benefits, and the states must honor any contract made in another state – which, in this case, would be gay marriage.

Now I’m just waiting for the Full Faith and Credit Clause to be applied to my paramedic license and my CCW. But that’s another issue.

The fact that SCOTUS didn’t hand down a ruling that immediately legalizes gay marriage in every corner of the Republic is not something to get upset about. They did what they were supposed to do – they interpreted the laws being challenged under the scope of the Constitution and ruled accordingly. They left the state issue to the state in question and handled the federal issue before them. DOMA is no more. That is something to celebrate.

I think I might actually take my nose out of my books for once and go out this weekend.

What it means for Equal Marriage Arizona is that the movement goes forward with efforts to bring marriage equality to Arizona. Having already taken the wind out of Cathy Herrod’s sails, Equal Marriage Arizona happily released to the public their intent to immediately begin collecting signatures to put the measure on the ballot next year. Warren Meyer said, “The US Supreme Court said today that the states can decide this issue for themselves, and this legitimizes our Equal Marriage Arizona efforts, allows Arizona voters the chance to guarantee the freedom to marry and guarantee religious freedoms. We’re confident the Arizona voters are ready to say YES to both of these interrelated freedoms.”

Erin Ogletree Simpson continued the sentiment: “Petitions will be printed today and our volunteer efforts will start tomorrow. People can get a petition by calling us at 480-625-8620. Whether you’re straight or gay, conservative like I am, or liberal this is an effort we all can embrace – an effort for guaranteed freedom to marry and a guarantee for religious freedom. The Supreme Court said it’s up to us, so now it’s up to all of us.”

If you’re in Arizona, it’s time to start work. Everywhere else…smile!

Equality Is Coming (UPDATED)

I am finally able to say it: I’ve been in the loop on the first initiative of its kind here in Arizona. Currently, 12 states have legalized gay marriage. Now, Equal Marriage Arizona – helmed by conservatives and libertarians – has come out with amendments to the Arizona constitution that would legalize gay marriage for the first time in a Red State.

Today I joined a meeting that began with people from both ends of the political spectrum to begin coming up with strategy and attempting to enlist gay rights groups in an effort to bring marriage equality to the state I currently reside in. The tension was palpable; I could almost say there were some who exuded animosity at certain times. During our discussions, some could not help but bring up the fact that they’ve been working on equality for a long time. I couldn’t help but wonder whether that was their way of saying they knew better than the conservatives leading the charge what to do or if it was their ego coming out to say, “we want credit” – either way, I felt a sense that we had taken a big step forward in achieving something that no primarily conservative state has been able to accomplish yet.

A good friend and the chair of Arizona Log Cabin Republicans Caucus, Erin Simpson, had let me in on it and asked me to keep it on the down-low since nobody was sure if it would make it off the ground. I was excited to meet some of the other people behind the initiative and get the chance to hear everyone’s concerns, and I was particularly excited to finally be able to say publicly that we could actually win this.

I have said many times before that I would never support any marriage equality bill that did not also include specific provisions to reinforce religious freedom. Any law I got behind would have to explicitly protect the right of any church or religious organization to refuse to assert their freedom of religious expression and refuse to marry a couple, whether gay or straight. This initiative does exactly that. It is exactly two sentences, changing the language of the bill that was voted into law in 2008 that declared marriage as being between one man and one woman. It changes the language from defining marriage as between “a man and a woman” to being between “two persons”. Also added is the following phrase:

“A religious organization, religious association, or religious society shall not be required to solemnize or officiate any particular marriage or religious rite of marriage in violation of its Constitutional right to free exercise of religion.”

No church will ever be forced to marry a gay couple if they choose not to. The doomsday predictions that churches will be sued for such refusals are shut down before they even begin. Gay and lesbian couples get their right to marry and Evangelicals are protected – which was exactly what I was personally after. And – bonus! – it’s been started by right-leaning leaders in the Arizona political scene. Erin is also a lesbian, a successful retired lawyer, and a wonderful woman with a lot of experience and wisdom to add to the debate on equality. The co-chair, Warren Meyer, is a successful businessman and libertarian. Others who are on board now once didn’t believe in marriage equality. That they are so honest is inspiring to me. It gives me hope that we can live in peace.

Equality is coming. It’s inevitable. I would simply prefer to have a say in all the other issues that come with it, and I am happy that things are changing.

UPDATE: after re-reading this post, I am aware that I didn’t explain something very well. I was never aware before the day of the meeting that this legislation was coming. I knew that SOMETHING was about to happen, but I did not know what until the day of the first meeting. When I finally got to the meeting and found out what it was, I had a very hard time not whipping my phone out and sharing the news with everyone. Someone that I know and respect was helping to get this initiative off the ground and I did not want to say anything until I had the green light from them. I apologize that this was not clearer when I first posted this.