Officials hail court ruling on DOMA
Politicians representing the Pioneer Valley trumpeted the pivotal role Massachusetts played in leading the way to the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision on gay marriage Wednesday.
“This is a big deal. It’s an important ruling. It’s an historic ruling,” said U.S. Rep. James McGovern, D-Worcester. “I’m proud to be from Massachusetts because Massachusetts led the way. We set the example for the rest of the country.”
In its decision, the court struck down the controversial 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman, ruling the federal government must recognize same-sex marriages in the 13 states — including Massachusetts — that have legalized them so far.
On that score, McGovern said, there is more work to be done to expand gay marriage now that DOMA is no longer in effect.
“We need to work on each state,” he said. “This decision says the federal government can no longer discriminate.”
U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, noted that while the ruling is indeed historic, it followed substantial changes in public opinion — and he believes those changes are part of why the court ruled the way it did.
“This is one of the most radical shifts in public opinion that I’ve seen in my lifetime,” Neal said. “You can see the majority of people accept gay marriage.”
McGovern, too, said he believes the court decision was influenced by the changing attitudes of the majority of people — and again, he credited Massachusetts’ role in bringing that about.
“Massachusetts demonstrated not only to the rest of the country but the rest of the world that gay marriage is a good thing. The world didn’t come to an end when in Massachusetts people could marry whomever they loved,” McGovern said.
State Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, in a statement released Wednesday said the decisions represented victory “for everyone, everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, who believes that America is, and must continue to be, a place where all people are treated fairly and equally before the law.”
He also said, “That has long been our nation’s promise to humanity. It’s a promise the citizens, the Legislature and the Supreme Judicial Court of our commonwealth first fulfilled a decade ago. And today our nation has taken another historic step toward completing the work that we started here.”
Neal said it is right that the court ruling essentially puts any progress on the marriage equality front into the hands of the states to legalize it as they see fit.
“Remember, it was the states that broke the barriers here, and Massachusetts was the leader,” he said. “The marriage issues have always been settled at the state level.”
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s office released this statement: “Today’s Supreme Court decision to end DOMA’s two-tiered system of legalized discrimination is a major victory for our country’s core values of fairness and equality. We now must continue the fight so all Americans are treated equally under the law and can marry the person they love.”
The decision was widely praised Wednesday in Massachusetts.
“I’m one, proud of what we did in Massachusetts, and two, very happy that this movement and this recognition has gone forward and will continue to go forward,” said retired state Supreme Judicial Court justice John Greaney, who joined with the majority in the landmark 2003 decision that gave same-sex couples the right to marry in Massachusetts.
Attorney General Martha Coakley said the ruling will mean that same-sex couples in Massachusetts will no longer be denied Social Security, medical benefits or hundreds of other federal protections.
Coakley was the first state attorney general to challenge DOMA in federal court, and though the case she brought was not the one ultimately decided by the Supreme Court, she said was proud of Massachusetts’ role.
“Think of the veterans who can now be buried together with their spouses in our military cemeteries,” said Coakley, her voice cracking with emotion at a news conference on Wednesday.
“Think of the wife who can now take medical leave to care for the love of her life. And think of the people who will no longer be denied Social Security or other important, fundamental protections simply because they married someone they loved,” she said.
U.S. Sen.-elect Edward Markey, who won a special election on Tuesday, issued a statement saying, “The Court’s decision confirms what we have long known, that all Americans have the right to pursue happiness by marrying the person they love.”
And McGovern noted that the ruling came during a rather tumultuous week of court decisions.
“(Tuesday) I was very depressed about their awful decision on the Voting Rights Act. (Wednesday) I am overwhelmed and filled with joy at their decision to reaffirm equal rights under the law,” McGovern said. “I think the Supreme Court is on the right side of history with this one.”
Material from the Associated Press was used in this story.