WASHINGTON (AP) -- Supreme Court strikes down federal provision denying benefits to legally married gay couples .More >>
Supreme Court strikes down federal provision denying benefits to legally married gay couples .More >>
MADISON (WKOW) -- Gay rights supporters are celebrating two Supreme Court rulings they say strengthen their fight for equality.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that denies federal benefits to same-sex couples is unconstitutional. In a second decision, the court dismissed a case that asked to overturn a lower-court decision striking down California's marriage ban. Now, tens of thousands of already married gay couples will be recognized again.
A group of supporters gathered Wednesday at UW-Madison's LGBT Campus Center to talk about the rulings and share their opinions. Gabriel Javier, assistant dean of students and the center's president, says he hopes it sets a precedent for equality nationwide.
"I think our communities have hope too now that there's a forward progress, a momentum, not only just with law and policy but with public opinion regarding many issues in the LGBTQ community," says Javier. "While we have to take an opportunity to really celebrate our advancements, we have to remember that today we can celebrate and tomorrow we have to get back to work."
Javier says there's still a lot of work to do when it comes to equality, especially here in Wisconsin.
In 2006, a majority of people voted to ban gay marriage in Wisconsin. A change to the state constitution would require another vote among the public and lawmakers. Both Democrats and Republicans see a big challenge.
"Whether or not we're at that point it would be successful, I'm not certain," says Rep. Peter Barca, Assembly minority leader. "Clearly, the Republicans and their allies are in court trying to strike down even just having domestic partnerships, which I think is extremely unfortunate given that the mood of the country is shifting."
"[The Supreme Court] reaffirmed the ability of individual states to make decisions on what they think is right for their state, which is why we had a referendum passed in a year that was a democratic year, that guaranteed that marriage should be between one man and one woman, and I don't see that changing any time soon."
In Washington, Senator Tammy Baldwin is celebrating a day of progress, but knows there's still a big fight for her cause ahead.
"While this is a huge step forward for our country, the fight to make America more equal does not end with a Supreme Court decision," Baldwin says. "There is more work to be done to fulfill the promise of freedom and equality for all - in which America becomes a place where every family's love and commitment can be recognized and respected under the law."
Gay rights advocates here in Madison know it's a challenge too. They say they plan to continue following the developments closely and arguing for equality.
"It helps us continue to make the argument, to show that as people come out in college that their lives are affirmed by all sorts of people and in this case, including different levels of government," says Javier. "The message to remain true to yourself and authentic to yourself is the most important thing you can do continues to ring true."
But opponents of gay marriage say they're going to work just as hard pushing their message.
"We are disappointed that the DOMA decision went the way it did," says Julaine Appling with Wisconsin Family Action. "We just don't believe that the federal government should have to recognize marriage, whether it's in a state or wherever for federal government purposes that is something other than 'one man and one woman'."
Appling says the Proposition 8 decision in California won't affect Wisconsin at all, although gay rights advocates say it could set a precedent in other states.
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