CHICAGO (CBS) – Gay activists and local elected officials on Wednesday were celebrating U.S. Supreme Court action that handed two key victories to same-sex couples.
The high court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, ruling legally married same-sex couples should have the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples.
The court also refused to take up an appeal of lower court rulings that struck down California’s ban on same-sex marriages, holding opponents did not have standing to appeal the case. That effectively cleared the way for same-sex marriages in California to continue.
“This is an historic and momentous day for millions of families in our country with parents who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender,” said Family Equality Council Board Chair Alan Bernstein. “Today the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that loving, married same-sex couples and their children deserve equal protection under the law.”
Equality Illinois director Bernard Chersakov also lauded the Supreme Court’s decisions, but called the dual victories “bittersweet” until Illinois legalizes same-sex marriages.
“It is a moment to celebrate. But today’s historic victory overturning the Defense of Marriage Act is bittersweet in the states like Illinois where couples are still denied the right and recognition of marriage,” he said. “For anyone who doubts that civil unions in Illinois created an unacceptable second-class status, the court’s ruling is a powerful message that the state House urgently needs to join the Senate and pass the freedom to marry.”
The Illinois Senate has passed legislation to allow same-sex couples to get married in Illinois, but the House has yet to vote as sponsors line up support.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Gov. Pat Quinn, Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon and other local elected officials also praised the Supreme Court’s decisions, and called on state lawmakers to approve same-sex marriage in Illinois.
“My view is, for the individuals and couples that want to build a family, I want to welcome them into the American family, and I think we should stand firm,” the mayor said.
He said he hopes the rulings serve as “a wakeup call” to state lawmakers on the push to approve same-sex marriage legislation in Illinois.
But the African American Clergy Coalition in Chicago, which has lobbied black lawmakers to vote against same-sex marriage, vowed to continue its fight against the legislation.
“Today’s Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a part of the Defense of Marriage Act recognizes same sex marriage only in states where it’s currently legal. The People of the State of Illinois, along with 38 other States, still have the right to determine if Gay Marriage should become law in their respective states,” the coalition said in a written statement. “God created marriage to be between one man and one woman. Those of us who are believers will continue to fight for and defend God’s Holy Word.”
Illinois Family Institute executive director David Smith said the Supreme Court decisions were disappointing, and he called it “a bad day for America.”
“The Supreme Court, as well as our federal and state governments, should be working to preserve marriage laws, and not undermine it,” “It’s clear to us that they don’t understand the unique purpose and nature of marriage. It’s the only relationship of interest to government, because it has the potential to produce children, and it’s the best environment to raise healthy and productive future members of society.”
He said it’s a silver lining that the court did not go further in regards to Proposition 8 by declaring it unconstitutional, which would have effectively struck down bans on same-sex marriage in 37 states.
Smith also said any momentum same-sex supporters might be feeling now will be gone by the time the issue comes up again in the Illinois General Assembly in the fall.
State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), who is the House sponsor of same-sex marriage legislation, has said he was unable to line up the required 60 votes for the proposal by the end of the legislature’s spring session in May, and agreed to give colleagues who were on the fence more time to gauge their constituents’ support.
On Wednesday, Harris took to Facebook to seek support for the measure.
“I hope my colleagues in the House will join us in acting soon to affirm that dignity, respect and protection for all Illinois families,” he wrote.
Harris has said he won’t call the legislation for a vote until there is enough support to pass it.