This is what progress looks like.
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court quietly extended the freedom to marry to same-sex couples in five states. By denying review of any of the five appeals cases brought before the Justices, favorable marriage rulings in the 4th, 7th, and 10th Circuits have gone into effect, legalizing same-sex marriage in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.
While these five states legalized same-sex marriage almost immediately, six more states under the jurisdiction of these appeals courts – North Carolina, West Virginia, South Carolina, Wyoming, Kansas and Colorado – are also affected by the denial of review, and could soon have the freedom to marry for all couples.
But it doesn’t end there.
Only a day later, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down same-sex marriage bans in Idaho and Nevada, which has jurisdiction over three other states with bans still in place: Alaska, Arizona and Montana.
While we wait to hear what will happen following Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy granting an immediate stay, halting marriages in Idaho, we can reflect on this week of incredible marriage progress. In just two days, the number of states that could have the freedom to marry jumped from 19 to 35.
These 35 states (and D.C.) hold over 60 percent of the U.S. population. This means, for the first time in the history of our country, same-sex marriage could be legal for the majority of the U.S. population.
This is a historic moment for marriage equality. And the Equality Federation is proud to be a part of it.
We are thrilled to celebrate with Federation members in these states who have worked hard to win the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in the communities they call home. Leaders like James Parrish, Executive Director of Equality Virginia, who witnessed marriages beginning in his state almost immediately after the Supreme Court’s decision.
“Equality Virginia is overjoyed that loving lesbian and gay couples can now marry the person they love in the place they call home. After decades of work to change hearts and minds, the freedom to marry is now a reality. This is such an exciting and historic day, and we are thrilled for the thousands of couples whose relationships – and families – will now be recognized by the Commonwealth of Virginia!”
These court decisions not only impact couples who choose to get married today, but for future generations of LGBT individuals, as acknowledged by Indiana Equality Action Board President, Chris Paulsen:
“It's going to be a very far reaching decision for Hoosier couples that will not only protect our families, but will also give the younger generation the hope that their lives will not be as difficult if they are in a same-sex relationship.”
While these decisions award many more same-sex couples the freedom to marry, it still leaves a large number of committed and loving couples without the legal right to marriage.
We know how important a national decision on marriage equality is. That’s why, just a few weeks ago, we joined fellow LGBT rights organizations in filing an amicus brief in support of the Supreme Court hearing one or more of the marriage cases. While we celebrate the extension of the freedom to marry to these states, we hope the Court will still choose to take up a case this term to establish a nationwide right to same-sex marriage, and award the remaining percentage of the population not living in a marriage state the legal right to marry the person they love.
But even if the Court were to extend marriage to couples nationwide, millions of hardworking, tax-paying LGBT Americans will still remain unprotected from discrimination at work, at home, and in their communities.
Winning marriage is a major milestone, but it is not the end of our journey. And while the back-to-back marriage decisions show us that we’re making incredible, unprecedented progress toward equality for LGBT people, we can’t rest yet.
Our members who won marriage equality in their states this week know that marriage is not the end. Troy Stevenson, Executive Director of The Equality Network, believes these decisions are just a step on the path to full equality:
“Now and forever more, the freedom to marry will be open to all in our great state. We will now shift our focus to making sure that same freedom is guaranteed in all walks of life, to all Oklahomans. Marriage is a great step, but it is just a step in the road to full and lived equality, and we will continue to fight until discrimination is relegated to the dustbin of history.”
Federation Board Chair and Fair Wisconsin Executive Director Katie Belanger knows there is more work to be done:
“This victory is the result of thousands of LGBT and allied people standing up for love, respect and fairness. Marriage is not the end of the road, however, and everyone at Fair Wisconsin is excited to embark on the next chapter of our work as we modernize our state’s nondiscrimination laws to include trans* Wisconsinites and ensuring equality is a lived reality for LGBT people and their families.”
Clifford Rosky, Equality Utah Board Chair, echoed this belief:
“We still have so much important work to do. Even today, same-sex couples in Utah can still be fired from their jobs and evicted from their homes simply because they have married the person who they love. Only the Utah legislature can secure the basic rights of gay and transgender Utahns. It is critical for our community and our movement to remain committed to finishing this work.”
While this week’s decisions get us closer and closer to marriage equality nationwide, our movement still has work to do to achieve full equality for every member of our community.
In 13 of the 16 states that could soon have marriage equality for same-sex couples, there are no statewide nondiscrimination protections. Individuals will be able to marry their partner, but can be fired from their job or denied housing simply for doing so. This is not what full, lived equality looks like.
The Federation and its members are committed to achieving equality and protections for our LGBT communities beyond winning marriage. We must celebrate this historic movement moment, and use this momentum to achieve protections for our entire community.
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