Pleased by recognition of Constitutional right
By Kevin E. Foley
Local citizens, for whom the struggle for same-sex marital recognition and other rights has great personal meaning, welcomed last week’s Supreme Court (SCOTUS) marriage decision and characterized it as an extension of individual freedom consistent with the spirit of Independence Day.
The Supreme Court, by a narrow 5-4 majority, decided that the Constitution guarantees a citizen’s right to same-sex marriage. Writing the opinion for the court’s majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy asserted: “The right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the 14th Amendment couples of the same sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty.”
The court’s decision, one of the country’s most historic, voided the laws of states that sought to prevent same-sex unions. The New York State Legislature granted the marriage right in 2012 after strong advocacy from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The decision came after decades of lower court litigation and legislative and political campaign battles.
In email exchanges, The Paper asked local same-sex couples to share their reactions to the ruling and views as well as prospects for the future.
In a public statement, Cold Spring’s Rep. Sean Maloney (D-NY) said:
The Supreme Court made the right decision by recognizing same-sex marriages and treating all same-sex couples across the country equally under the law. The court continued the progress of the civil rights movement, and reaffirmed a moral truth about freedom in America that is, as John Kennedy said, ‘as old as Scripture and as clear as the American Constitution.’ As children we are taught the founding principle of our nation, that all Americans are created equal, and this ruling is a modern reflection of the Declaration of Independence and the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Sounding a similar theme, married couple Matt Francisco and Joe Patrick wrote in a joint email:
“For us, it was not about religion or procreation, it was simply about equality. Federal law provides 1,138 benefits, rights and protections on the basis of marital status. The Supreme Court’s June 2013 decision that struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act [DOMA] recognized our relationship for the first time for federal purposes. But we were all left with a patchwork of state marriage laws that blocked our full access to those protections and federal benefits. And what if we needed to move to a state that didn’t have marriage equality?
“So after decades as adults with equal responsibilities and taxation we are now afforded equal protection under the law. After 25 years together, we are now assured that those protections will be in place when we need them. Justice Kennedy captures the essence when he says that the plaintiffs in the case were seeking ‘equal dignity in the eyes of the law.’ For us this decision was affirming in the deepest sense.”
Across the country there were several examples of political and religious figures arguing the court had encroached on relegious liberty by forcing people to have to act against their belief in marriage as only allowed between a man and woman in granting licenses or other forms of recognition to same-sex partners.
Rev. Shane Scott-Hamblen, an Epispocal priest and rector of St. Mary-in-the-Highlands in Cold Spring wrote: “As a Christian, as a gay priest, and as a human, I took great hope from the SCOTUS decision. I’ve also watched the Episcopal Church (and others) work hard and grow into a much more Christ-like love of neighbor over the years. There were times that I worried that hatred and discrimination would win out. Or, I worried that the mistreated minorities (women, gays, races, etc.) would retaliate with ‘an eye for an eye.’ It has been a relief to witness a nonviolent response to discrimination. Most of all though is the joy and relief this ruling gives all of us that we are growing from fear into hope. It is a move in a most Godly direction.”
In an interview on an MSNBC news program, Maloney said: “My partner and I were married in church, that’s an important part of who we are. The notion that gay people don’t have an intense regard for spirituality is mistaken. We take very seriously the distinction between civil marriage and church. No one has to do anything against their faith.”
Both Scott-Hamblen and Maloney underscored the importance of marriage and raising children in the context of the decision.
“Last year, I celebrated this ruling in a personal way — by marrying my now-husband Randy [Florke] after 22 years together, with whom I have raised three beautiful children. While the idea of marriage was once impossible, in the eyes of the federal government, because of the Supreme Court’s action our relationship was finally treated as equal under federal law,” wrote Maloney.
“What a long way we have traveled since I was young. There was so much fear, bullying, and dishonesty before. Now, I look at our three boys in school with their friends and see a totally different attitude to LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender] friends and classmates,” said Scott-Hamblen.
Ava Bynum, executive director of the Hudson Valley Seed organization, was the youngest person to respond, and she looked to her own future but also to the dangers for others: “I feel extremely lucky to have witnessed this day with so much of my life ahead of me. It could not have come without the struggle and persistence of so many throughout history. The SCOTUS decision is also not the end. As I celebrate my right to marry my partner, I also urge everyone to remem ber that anti-LGBTQ [Q for questioning] violence and discrimination still persists, and disproportionately targets people of color and transgender women. We have won a great victory, and now we can continue working toward a just and equitable society.”
“These triumphs are not only for families like mine, but for millions of Americans who still face legal discrimination simply for who they are and who they love,” said Scott-Hamblen.
In interviews, Maloney has emphasized that Congress now needs to follow up the SCOTUS decision with legislation outlawing discrimination in employment, housing and other areas of public life. Such legislation has been in the Congressional pending file for 20 years. “It’s outrageous people can still be discriminated against in the workplace. All Americans should be equal under the law whether it’s at work or in housing,” he declared. “I will continue to work in Congress to make sure that we keep taking steps toward full equality.”