PDT Staff Writer
“I’m ecstatic,” First Ward City Councilman Kevin W. Johnson said when he learned the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the law barring the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages legalized by the states, was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court Wednesday by a 5-4 vote.
“The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. “By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.”
“In Loving versus Virginia, back in the sixties, a black and white married couple, challenged the state of Virginia, stating that their marriage was illegal,” Johnson said. “However, it was legal in other states, and the Supreme Court then ruled that states could not pick and choose as far as recognizing a marital relationship because it was essentially a contract between two individuals that was protected under our Constitution.”
The case was brought by Mildred Loving, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, who had been sentenced to a year in prison in Virginia for marrying each other. Their marriage violated the state’s anti-miscegenation statute, the colored.”
“Now we have a situation where at least 12 states and the District of Columbia recognize the right of two individuals, whether they be male-male, female-female, or male-female, that right to marry - but DOMA wouldn’t extend those rights that are provided everyone else,” Johnson said.
Johnson, at the time that he talked with the Daily Times, had not seen the Supreme Court’s actual opinion, listing the reasons for their decision.
“I think one of the reasons was, it violated contract rights,” Johnson said. “There’s two issues to marriage. One is the contract that the states recognize. You go to the state first, not to a religious source. You don’t go to your pastor first, unless you want instruction. You don’t go to a pastor to get a license. You go to the state to get a license, because it is a contract.”
Johnson was asked about benefits that had not been extended in the past from the death of someone in a same-sex relationship.
“Paul (Johnson) and I had a marriage ceremony a long time ago in Key West, Florida,” Johnson said. “We also registered as domestic partners under California state law. However, when Paul passed away, Wells Fargo denied me his pension.”
Johnson said it is still legal in the state of Ohio to discriminate against someone because of their sexual orientation.
“It is still legal on Ohio for an employee to fire someone because her or she is gay,” Johnson said. “It is still legal in Ohio to deny service to someone who is gay in a restaurant or in the rental of a motel room.”
Johnson said there is a gay rights bill before Ohio’s legislature, but no action is currently being taken on that legislation.
A bipartisan group of state lawmakers is offering a bill that mirrors previous attempts to end discrimination in housing, wages, certain government contracts and mental health issues. It is sponsored by two Republicans and two Democrats.
Justice Kennedy delivered the court’s opinion, and was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito all filed dissenting opinions.
DOMA, signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996, prevents same-sex couples whose marriages are recognized by their home state from receiving the hundreds of benefits available to other married couples under federal law.
“I am disappointed to hear the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law by Bill Clinton, which protects the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. Their refusal to affirm the decision of a majority of voters in California and uphold Proposition 8 is also dispiriting, as it weakens the voice of ‘we the people,’” U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup (OH-2) said. “The family bond of a mother and a father is foundational to society and sacred to many. Decisions to distort the tradition and definition of marriage should not be up to activist judges without recourse by the citizens of the nation or the various states.”
Because the Supreme Court did not rule on Proposition 8, the lower court ruling allowing gay marriage in California will remain in effect.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at email@example.com. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.