June 30, America’s LGBT communities and activists appear to have an abundance of reasons to celebrate as merry-makers joined in Pride Day celebrations nationwide. In just a few short weeks, Americans have witnessed the closure of Exodus International, the Supreme Court’s rejection of the Defense of Marriage Act and Prop. 8, and a variety of news stories highlighting dubious aspects of anti-gay organizations such as the funeral-disrupting Westboro Baptist Church.
“Today’s DOMA ruling is a profound step forward for loving, committed same-sex couples across the country,” begins the reaction statement from People for the American Way Foundation.
DOMA was overturned in a 5–4 decision, led by Justice Anthony Kennedy. In the case of U.S. v. Windsor, the court found Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional. Section 3 contains the controversial reservation of marriage to “one man and one woman”.
Marvin Kirsner, in a piece by the South Florida Business Journal, commented, “With DOMA now struck down by the Supreme Court, same-sex married couples should be able to file amended returns so that they can get the benefits of filing jointly. This will result in a lower tax liability for many same-sex married couples, generating a tax refund.”
The high court also, in a 5–4 decision led by Chief Justice Roberts, ruled California did not have jurisdiction to decide on Prop. 8, which also bans gay marriage. The decision was deferred to the Ninth Circuit Court, essentially striking down the law for the time-being. Gov. Jerry Brown was already moving forward only hours after the court’s ruling on Prop 8.
“In light of this decision, I have directed the California Department of Public Health to advise the state’s counties that they must begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in California as soon as the Ninth Circuit confirms the stay is lifted,” said Brown in a statement.
On another front, Exodus International , a longtime backer of a controversial “gay cure”, has announced its disbandment. On June 19, Exodus President Alan Chambers announced the organization will close their doors for good. The announcement came a year after Exodus defended itself against accusations by media sources they were not in fact engaging in conversion therapy. The ministry’s most recent announcements seems to completely reverse their position.
In his interview with The Orlando Sentinel, Chambers acknowledged his struggles with homosexuality and finding hope with Exodus. Over time, Chambers came to realize the “anguish and shame” he and the ministry had caused others, and promised to lead efforts to undo some of the damage. The now-former president of Exodus has established a website, ReduceFear.org, to bring together those who wish to share in this effort.
“Today it is as if I’ve just woken up to a greater sense of how painful it is to be a sinner in the hands of an angry church,” said Chambers.
Not all took recent developments in stride.
Michael Hammill, publisher of The Hammill Post, notably shipped a gift of Kool-Aid to fervently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church as a show of solidarity with LGBT equality gains. Westboro is infamous for slogans such as “God hates fags” and “God hates America”. They are the founders of the related websites. Westboro’s pastor, Fred Phelps, Jr., has also apparently called for a Jonestown–style mass–suicide among his congregation to protest what he views as a sinful nation.
A blog post on GodHatesAmerica.com read, “We gotta go! And when we do, it’s time for this filthy nation to receive of all the plagues that your Creator has promised.”
Hammill said in a statement, “America is a republic under God. I’m pretty sure that means love, and the unique opportunity for universal brotherhood. We have obviously been blessed. Let’s never again discount the value of each one of us. Let’s instead celebrate our fellowship.”
On the financial side, Legal Director for the Human Rights Campaign Brian Moulton critiqued the federal benefits same-sex couples will enjoy in an interview with NPR. Though confident the IRS will acknowledge all licensed, married couples, regardless of state residency, Moulton does have his concerns.
“The challenge is always for those married same-sex couples who don’t live in marriage equality states right now. And in Social Security, there’s actually a provision of the law, in the Social Security law itself, that says the agency looks to the state where someone is domiciled, where they reside,” said Moulton.
Much of Moulton’s discussion on the newly-found benefits of gay marriage hinges on how various federal agencies will interpret laws regarding their operation. The question across the board seems to be on whether states will be able to make the final determination in who is allowed to receive benefits.
Despite any questions, pro marriage-equality groups everywhere have responded with approval to recent developments.