From outlawed to outcast, from legalized to constitutionalized

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Cory Bilicko
Managing Editor

Photo by Leslie Lay Amidst media and residents on June 26, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia raises a rainbow-colored flag outside City Hall in honor of the Supreme Court's ruling that day that allows for same-sex marriage nationwide.

Photo by Leslie Lay
Amidst media and residents on June 26, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia raises a rainbow-colored flag outside City Hall in honor of the Supreme Court’s ruling that day that allows for same-sex marriage nationwide.

The rainbow-colored flags were flying June 26, including one hoisted by Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia outside City Hall at noon, in celebration of the United States Supreme Court’s decision that day legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the nation.

However, local leaders who are part of or who support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people warned that the ruling is not a panacea to any and all injustices that the community experiences, and those opposed to same-sex marriage continue their mission to ensure that legal matrimony remains an institution between opposite-sex couples.

In the 5—4 ruling for Obergefell v. Hodges, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion on behalf of the other four liberal justices.

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family,” Kennedy wrote. “In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

Photo Credit A rainbow-striped flag, symbolizing the LGBT community, flies next to others that represent the City of Long Beach, the County of Los Angeles, the State of California and the United States outside Long Beach City Hall.

Photo Credit
A rainbow-striped flag, symbolizing the LGBT community, flies next to others that represent the City of Long Beach, the County of Los Angeles, the State of California and the United States outside Long Beach City Hall.

Shortly after the ruling was announced, elected officials throughout California issued statements supporting the decision.

Gov. Jerry Brown related the ruling to the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York, saying that it is a reminder “of how long and winding the road to equality has been.”

“Today, our highest court has upheld a principle enshrined in our Constitution,” Brown said, “but only now finally realized for same-sex couples across America.”
California Attorney General Kamala Harris also showed her support of the decision.

“Finally the highest court in the land has acknowledged that marriage is a fundamental right to which no one should be denied,” Harris said. “This holding reaffirms the sacred principle that all people are created equal. It’s time to end the debate— let the wedding bells ring.”

Garcia called the ruling “a historic victory for equality, freedom and love” and said he couldn’t be prouder of the country.

“Millions of Americans— including myself and my partner, Matt— now have the same rights that have long been enjoyed by everyone,” Garcia said. “This is especially exciting for the city of Long Beach, with our strong LGBT community. While we have long supported equality, and while California has had the right to marriage equality for two years, today’s decision means that all Americans will have their marriages honored no matter where they live.”

Porter Gilberg, executive director of The LGBTQ Center Long Beach, responded to the Signal Tribune’s request for a comment on the ruling by sharing his organization’s official statement. Gilberg is the center’s first transgender executive director.

“The LGBTQ [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning] Center of Long Beach is ecstatic with today’s historic ruling affirming the freedom to marry for all couples in the United States,” the statement reads. “This is absolutely the outcome we were hoping for. The LGBTQ community has achieved momentous civil-rights advancements in ways that were thought impossible just a short time ago. We have a long way to go, but this is a tremendous leap towards full social and legal equality for our community.”

What the ruling means
Another local individual who recommends that the community and its supporters tread carefully moving forward is Stephanie Loftin, who founded the law firm Long Beach Law in 1990.

In an interview Tuesday with the Signal Tribune, Loftin, who is an out lesbian, described a social dichotomy that exists among young people today.

“There are an awful lot of young people who are just starting to vote and were 7 [years old] when Massachusetts had the right to marry,” Loftin said. “So, a lot of young people have grown up with the fact that gay people have been able to get married in some states, so it kind of depends on where you are. Our younger generation is much more OK with us being able to get married like everybody else than the old people were. My generation didn’t even think that was a possibility and never thought it was even— I didn’t even know a gay person when I grew up. I didn’t know a lesbian. I didn’t know it was an option. So, getting married was beyond the realm of possibilities. It was just not even thought about.”

Loftin said the SCOTUS ruling may contribute to a culture of acceptance that leads to fewer negative consequences for the LGBT community.

“I think people coming out today are going to be an accepted class of citizens where maybe we won’t have gay suicides,” she said. “Maybe we won’t have as many gay and lesbian drunks and dope addicts.”

She also pointed out that the June 26 ruling coincided with several significant court cases and events, including the second anniversary of United States v. Windsor, in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that restricting federal interpretation of “marriage” and “spouse” to apply only to heterosexual unions, by Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), is unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. That case was decided June 26, 2013.

Loftin also mentioned that June 26 was the date in 2003 that the Supreme Court ruled 6—3 to strike down the sodomy law in Texas and, by extension, invalidate sodomy laws in 13 other states, making same-sex sexual activity legal in every U.S. state and territory.

Like Gov. Brown, Loftin also cited the anniversary on Sunday of the June 28, 1969 Stonewall riots, when patrons of New York’s Stonewall Inn fought with raiding police officers, marking what many view as the single-most important event leading to the gay civil-rights movement in the U.S.

“So, I think Friday should be Gay Day,” Loftin said. “It should be national Gay Liberation Day, like we have Juneteenth.”
However, Loftin said there is going to be a “push-back” and that the Obergefell v. Hodges decision does not mean discrimination against LGBT people will suddenly end, particularly in the South.

She said that some states who do not agree with the ruling will simply refuse to issue any marriage licenses at all.
“So, that’s going to be a mess,” she said. “It was great to be able to celebrate that day, but there’s a lot of work to do, just like our brothers and sisters in the Civil Rights Act passage. But the fact is there’s a whole lot of work to do, and there’s going to be a whole lot of hatred to overcome and a lot of bigotry to overcome. Gay and lesbian people can still be fired.”

Right to heterosexual parents
Andy Pugno, general counsel for, the official proponents of Proposition 8, the statewide ballot proposition that voters approved in 2008 to make same-sex marriage illegal in California, issued a statement that characterized the ruling as doing “grave injury” to the basic concept that the people, rather than the courts, make the law. He also emphasized that the SCOTUS decision neglects the needs of children and their right to have opposite-sex parents.

“A bare majority of the Supreme Court has abruptly cut off this ongoing debate, unilaterally imposing its view of what’s good for society by suddenly discovering a new constitutional right that almost no one would have imagined just a few years ago,” Pugno wrote. “The ‘separation of powers’ they taught us in grade school is now dangerously out of balance, and it’s time to remind the government that all constitutional power ultimately resides in the consent of the governed— not in kings, dictators or judges.”

Limits of the ruling
Just as is fighting to ensure children are not raised by same-sex parents, gay married couples in some states will have to fight for the right to adopt.

In light of Obergefell v. Hodges, it is likely that courts will strike down such prohibitions, particularly since child-raising is deemed an important part of marriage, according to Tim Holbrook, a professor of law at Emory University School of Law who is a frequent LGBT commentator.

In a piece he wrote for, Holbrook stated that the decision itself does not directly address the issue of adoption and that states resistant to same-sex marriage may try to uphold such restrictions on them.

Holbrook indicates, however, that the Court’s decision will have an immediate impact in the areas of Social Security and taxes, inheritance, hospital visitation and medical decisions and divorce, wherein LGBT people will be treated equal to straight couples.

In addition to the absence of nondiscrimination protections that Loftin cited— since there is no federal law that prohibits discrimination against the LGBT community in employment, housing or public accommodations— the ruling does not change the existing policy on gay or bisexual men donating blood. Presently, men who have had sex with other men are not allowed to donate.

What remains to be seen, according to Holbrook, is the effect on churches and same-sex marriage. States have tried to use Religious Freedom Restoration Acts to provide greater protections for religious freedoms. As noted in the ruling, churches that oppose same-sex marriages will not be required to perform them since it would violate the First Amendment’s protections for religious liberty.

However, as Chief Justice John Roberts pointed out, questions remain as to whether or not religious institutions that provide married student housing will be required to accommodate same-sex married couples and whether a religious employer may terminate or refuse to hire an individual in a same-sex marriage.

A Colorful View