The Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, meaning same-sex couples legally married should get the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples.
You can find the ruling in the United States v. Windsor here.
The Court essentially did not rule on Proposition 8, which, as the Post-Gazette notes, clears the way for the resumption of same-sex marriage in California. More explanation on Prop 8 here from the Washington Post.
Parts of Liberty Avenue were shut down for a screening of the rulings for an event, called Riot or Rejoice, sponsored by a host of LGBT and allied organizations. As the rulings became public, the crowd erupted, waving rainbow flags, hugging. The sound man for the event wept. Couples stood, head to head, taking it all in. And local electeds took the stage to rally the crowd, in support of the decision, and the work left do in Pennsylvania to pass a state-wide nondiscrimination law.
"The Supreme Court of the United States told you something you already knew," said Democratic mayoral nominee Bill Peduto. "No one can take away your rights."
There will be lots of analysis on what this all means in the next hours, days and months and we'll provide as much as we can as it becomes available. Here's some early analysis from moderate think-tank Third Way.
"This is the biggest moment in LGBT history since Stonewall," says Jim Shepphard, president of the Steel City Stonewall Democrats.
For couples like Brent Kelly and Doug Palencia, of the North Hills, it was an opportunity for recognition — even if it was something their home state of Pennsylvania has yet to pursue. The pair have been together for 12 years, and won't get married out of state. Instead, they want to wait until Pennsylvania approves it.
"I feel like a second class citizen. I want to be like everyone else," says Kelly. "We're like every other family out there."
In a press release issued after the ruling, EqualityPA executive director Ted Martin noted there is much left to do in Pennsylvania.
"In the coming hours and days, we'll be working with legal experts to analyze today's rulings and determine what impact, if any, they could have here in Pennsylvania," he wrote. "But at this point, even with the death of DOMA and Prop8, same-sex couples in the commonwealth are not able to marry.
Despite these favorable rulings, we still have work to do to win marriage here in the Keystone State."
We'll have more soon. But I want to leave you with this image, because to me, it sums up the weight that these decisions held for people.
Well, it's here. The Supreme Court of the United States is expected to hand down rulings tomorrow on same-sex marriage in the Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act cases on the final day of the court's term. And there's a handful of local events tomorrow in which same-sex marriage supporters can join together for the rulings.
Riot or Rejoice will be a gathering from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Liberty Avenue between 9th & 10th Streets in Downtown. A large outdoor television and speakers will be provided for to observe the rulings which will begin at 10 a.m.
This event is being produced by the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh, Marriage Equality for Pennsylvania, Persad Center, Equality Pennsylvania, New Voices Pittsburgh, Shepherd Wellness Center, Steel City Stonewall Democrats, and Dreams of Hope. If your organization is interested in participating, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Same-sex marriage supporters will also hold an interfaith prayer vigil tomorrow evening in light of the Court's rulings. The vigil will be held at 7 p.m., Wed., June 26, at Sixth Presbyterian Church, 1688 Murray Ave., Squirrel Hill.
To follow Supreme Court rulings in real-time, SCOTUSblog runs a fantastic live chat which starts at 9 a.m. tomorrow.
And if you missed it today, SCOTUS struck down key parts of the Voting Rights Act.
No ruling yet on the Supreme Court cases involving Proposition 8 or the Defense of Marriage Act. But advocates are planning a prayer vigil next week, regardless of the outcome.
The vigil, Upon the Supreme Court Decision on Marriage (or Not), will be an interfaith service at 7 p.m., Wed., June 26, at Sixth Presbyterian Church, 1688 Murray Ave., Squirrel Hill.
The Supreme Court will convene again on Monday to hand down decisions.
Riders are meeting at 6 p.m. at Dippy the Dinosaur on Forbes Avenue in Oakland in front of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. The ride departs at 6:30 p.m. It will be at leisurely pace and go 8-10 miles and end at a surprise destination. Helmets, lights and adherence to traffic laws required.
Riders are encouraged to "dress in your Pride best."
For more information and to RSVP, check out the event's Facebook page.
Of special interest is the annual seminar on legal and financial planning for same-sex couples. The seminar covers everything from DOMA, forming co-habitation agreements and wills to retirement planning. The legal discussion will be led by attorneys Maureen Cohon and Kate Paine of Buchanan, Ingersoll and Rooney PC's Non-traditional Couples & Families Practice Group (their blog can be found here.)The financial discussion will be led by Robert Lepre, Senior Vice President at Fifth Third Bank, Life Partner Services. A Q&A will also be held at the session.
The meeting will be 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m., Tue., June 11, at WQED Multimedia, 4802 Fifth Ave., Oakland.
The meeting is free to attend, but registration is required. RSVP by June 6 to Maureen Cohon at 412-562-1835, or email@example.com.
The American Civil Liberties Union is seeking same-sex couples whose stories can be used to help shape public and legal opinion, as well as demonstrate harm due to not being able to marry.
From the organization's website:
"The American Civil Liberties Union is fighting to ensure all same-sex couples have the legal protections necessary to sustain their relationships and families. But winning the right to domestic partnership, civil union or marriage begins with you. Tell us your story: It is the most powerful weapon to create change. Real couples with real stories will convince America that all relationships deserve equal protection under the law."
The survey asks about couples about marriage rights, health care access, discrimination and other issues. The survey can be found here. By participating in the survey, couples are giving a coalition of groups working toward same-sex rights authorization to use the information for advocacy work.
Update 2:48 p.m.: We inadvertently misquoted Sen. Farnese at the end of an original posting. We have corrected it to attribute the quote to Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery/Delaware, and co-chairman of the LGBT caucus
Could Pennsylvania be moving forward in terms of protections for its LGBT citizens?
Possibly. A broad group of state lawmakers today introduced bills HB 300/SB300, which would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression statewide in employment, housing, credit and public accommodations. And they cited a record high level of support for the measures.
"These identical proposals have a common goal — to end, once and for all, the last vestige of legal discrimination in Pennsylvania based on an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity or expression," said state Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Squirrel Hill), a co-sponsor of HB300 with Republican state Rep. Chris Ross, and sponsor of the bill in previous years.
Frankel noted that its the first time the bills have had such broad, bipartisan support, with 77 sponsors in the House and 25 in the Senate.
"We believe today marks a significant step for LGBT equality in Pennsylvania," Frankel said.
Frankel said he hoped that lawmakers could build momentum to pass the bills. "We know the climate is still difficult," he said. "LGBT progress lags behind in Pennsylvania at an alarming rate, especially when compared to 21 states across the country that already provide for LGBT protections in employment and housing."
(Indeed during the press conference announcing the legislation, ultra-conservative Republican and pride of Cranberry Daryl Metcalfe introduced, yet again, a constitutional amendment to define marriage in Pennsylvania as being between a man and a woman.)
Legislators also announced private-sector support from UPMC, SEIU and AARP of Pennsylvania.
"The fact is the only reason to oppose this bill is you don't support equality," said
Philadelphia Democratic Senator Larry Farnese, whose the lead Democratic sponsor of the bill in the Senate Sen. Daylin Leach, , D-Montgomery/Delaware, and co-chairman of the LGBT caucus. "I am tired and have no respect for the argument that this bill won't change anything. If there is one case of discrimination in Pennsylvania, it's one too many."
Equality PA is encouraging residents who support the measures to contact their legislators.
The Allegheny County Department of Human Services SAFE START program in conjunction with the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Pittsburgh is looking at providing a parenting program for same-sex couples.
The organizations are distributing a survey for same-sex parents to guide the program adaptation. It can be found here.
Tomorrow, the Supreme Court of the United States begins hearing arguments in the first of two cases regarding same-sex marriage.
Tomorrow's case is on the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriages. On Wednesday, the justices will hear arguments in another case challenging a section of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. (Need a primer on the cases? Read this.)
Across the country, marriage equality advocates are planning vigils to mark the cause. In Pittsburgh, there will be a vigil at 7 p.m. Wednesday, at the Federal County Courthouse, 700 Grant St. Downtown.
The vigil is being led by Marriage Equality for Southwestern PA.
Joshua Adam Szczesny, Co-Founder of Marriage Equality for PA, says that the movement for marriage equality in the state has expanded to 13 chapters. ME4PA willl hold vigils and actions on Tuesday and Wednesday. ME4PA, he says, is working on the grassroots organizing behind mounting a campaign for statewide marriage rights.
"It's going to depend on the Supreme Court cases," he says. "If we get a favorable ruling, it'll make it a lot easier to challenge in Pennsylvania courts."
Szczesny acknowledges there is work to be done. After all, lawmakers haven't been able to muster enough votes to pass a bill that protects from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and identity. But there's reason to be hopeful; the state General Assembly's Equality Caucus has more than doubled this year. It's also up in the polls; one poll earlier this month reported that support for same-sex marriage has increased by 14 points in the last year and a half. Activists like Szczesny are hoping the movement will be buoyed by such shifts.
"I don't know how it'll shape out — opposition is fierce," Szczesny says. "But the public opinion shift has been huge."
Members of Pittsburgh's LGBT community are planning to rally at 3 p.m. Sunday near the South Side bar Rizzo's Margaritaville, at 2200 E. Carson St., in response to an attack last week against a woman who identifies as a "stud" — women who present as men.
JourDyn Cartel, 25, says she was with about a dozen friends at the bar at around 1:30 a.m. Jan. 17, when an unknown man who had expressed uneasiness with her and another in her group who identified as a stud, confronted her and then punched her in the face with a closed fist.
A member of Cartel's group went to her defense, and more people got involved. A few tossed beer bottles, according to witnesses. After the bar's security responded by closing the bar and evicting all the patrons, the original aggressor and at least one other man attacked Cartel and her friends again on the sidewalk.
Cartel suffered a broken nose and a fractured eye socket and was treated at a nearby hospital the next day, she says. At least one other in the group suffered minor injuries and an employee of the bar was also injured but not hospitalized, according to Brad Rizzo, the bar's manager, according to PLCB records.
Pittsburgh Police are investigating the incident and plan to have a presence at the rally, according to Bureau Spokeswoman Diane Richard.
Sunday's rally is intended to bring awareness to both the attack and the bar's lack of assistance in diffusing the situation, organizers say.
"These were straight guys beating up gay people," Cartel says.
Tonyarae Berry, 31, a self-identified stud who was with Cartel that evening says the unknown men were clearly uncomfortable with her and Cartel, although there was no warning that it would escalate. She says one of the men took offense each time she or Cartel came near him, telling them not to touch him. Other members of their party were able to pass the men without a confrontation.
"We weren't bothering anybody. It's not like we were hitting on the girls they were with or anything," says Berry, who says she was the designated driver that night. "The whole incident was unwarranted. I don't feel like there was a reason."
Twenty-nine-year-old Fausta Andrade, who was also there that evening, says Sunday's rally is intended to show support for Cartel and raise awareness of the incident.
"This is something that is still a problem in the community. People are homophobic and angry. It took me for a shock," she says.
Rizzo says the fight in the bar was unfortunate, and that he believes he knows who the aggressors were. He's says he's tried to reach out to those organizing the rally, but has not talked to them yet.
"I do believe I have some information that may help. But no one has returned my calls," he says.
He says he has taken steps to prevent future incidents, adding extra security and prohibiting beer bottles. Alcohol will be served only in plastic cups now, he says.
"I just hope everyone is OK," Rizzo says.
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