Civil Rights
7:35 am
Thu June 27, 2013

How The U.S. Supreme Court's Decision Gave Legal Gay Marriage What It Needed: Validity

THE CAUSE THEY LOST: In 2008, these protesters demonstrated in Fort Lauderdale against a gay marriage ban that was on the ballot. Sixty-two percent of the voters approved it.
Credit Danny Hammontree/Flickr

The benefits will be substantial for those who get them, but the beneficiaries of the U. S. Supreme Court's decision to strike down the Federal Defense of Marriage Act are just a small subset of  Florida's LGBT population.

They are the couples with marriage licenses from states where same-sex marriage is legal. Until now, DOMA prevented them from receiving tax breaks, Social Security, pension considerations and myriad other benefits that the federal government extends to married couples.

For David Treece, a financial planner who lives in Miami Shores, the denial of those federal benefits was a sign that his three-year marriage to his partner of 25 years was never regarded seriously.

"I get offended when people say, 'I just believe in traditional marriage,'" Treece said on Wednesday, less than an hour after the DOMA ruling. "It’s not a 'just.' You're talking about inflicting suffering and inequality in over a thousand federal ways on same-sex couples. And now that's going away."

But not for everybody. The court came down on the side of being married, not getting married.

That's why marriage-minded gays who live in Florida and other states where same-sex marriage is prohibited are untouched by the DOMA case. But spouses like Treece and his partner, who came to Florida from Washington, D. C. with a perfectly legal marriage license, can now enjoy the full range of federal marriage protections.

Unmarried gays must remain so if they want to continue living in Florida where 62 percent of the voters approved a gay marriage ban in 2008. Although the Supreme Court, in another case, struck down California's voter-approved same-sex marriage prohibition, that did not affect other states.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott found that outcome suitable. "The voters decided that we're going to be a traditional marriage state," Scott said Wednesday. "That's what the voters decided and it's my job as governor to uphold the law of the land."

Meanwhile, there is a business angle to gay marriage and many believe it’s all upside.

Advocates for gay rights said the DOMA decision would be a social and economic boon to states where same-sex marriage is legal and might even create jobs.

"If you look at states that continue to lag behind recognizing equality, they're excluding people from the process. You’re making it more difficult for companies to hire and retain people, versus states that recognize these relationships," said Steve Adkins, president of the Miami-Dade Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

But opponents of same-sex marriage have not gone away. Traditionalists and conservative pastors made themselves available after the decision and among them was Enrique Ramirez, pastor of the Cathedral of Faith in Medley.

He said recognizing same sex marriage is a violation of the divine plan.

"God created man and woman," he told reporters. "The government should stick to that."

Jose Gabilondo, a law school professor at Florida International University, doubts that the opposition will die away just because of a Supreme Court case. Just as religious pharmacists sometimes refuse to fill contraceptive prescriptions, others may get religion, too, he believes, to dodge the new requirements.

"You may see federal employees make free exercise of religion arguments to not comply with the federal mandates," Gabilondo said. "I don't think the defense of marriage community is going to take this lying down."

But neither does he think gays should be bashful about claiming their new rights and benefits.

"They’ve gotten used to having a second-class status," Gabilondo said. "What they have to develop is a sense of entitlement so they can grow into this equality."