On Friday, June 26, we here at Hotspots and everyone across the nation witnessed history as the Supreme Court echoed the Founding Fathers who wrote our Declaration of Independence, who envisioned that all Americans would have the right to, among other things, the pursuit of happiness. In the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of LGBT Americans and their right to marry the loves of their lives. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion. Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer also voted in favor of marriage equality.
In the majority opinion, Justice Kennedy wrote, “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed. It is so ordered.”
Just like that, the fight was over. The fight we invested so much energy and patience in was finally over, and we won. Not only did we win, love won. Immediately, #LoveWins became the top trending topic on Twitter, and since the decision was announced just as the final weekend of Pride Month was kicking into gear, #LoveWins would trend the entire weekend.
Within minutes, news of happy couples receiving their marriage licenses flooded social media. Nearly all of the thirteen states that did not have marriage equality before June 26 announced that they would not fight the Supreme Court ruling. In Louisiana, Governor Bobby Jindal initially announced the state would resist, but within two days they ended up complying with the ruling. As of press time, legal battles may begin in states like Mississippi and Texas, where some couples ran into roadblocks in their quest to receive marriage licenses.
“The landmark opinion establishes a new civil right and further demands that LGBT persons be treated with fairness and respect under the law,” Fort Lauderdale attorney George Castrataro told Hotspots. “It reflects the hard work and dedication of a countless many who faced great adversity and challenge.”
“I’ve played only a small part in this victory, but I know a lot of the lawyers who have been fighting at the state and federal level,” Brandon attorney Karen Howe told Hotspots. “As a group we are celebrating today, it’s a validation of our existence, of our citizenship; that we as LGBT citizens truly have a seat at the table now. It’s only right that we as the LGBT community should receive the rights of marriage that everyone else has.”
Wilton Manors attorney Christopher Rumbold was also happy about the ruling, on personal and professional levels. It validated, nationwide, the eighteen-year commitment he has shared with his husband. He did note that it’s important to discuss an inevitable topic: what happens when a gay couple decides, for whatever reason, to divorce.
“With alimony and equitable distribution of the assets, the court considers the duration of the marriage, and what some states have done is that they’ve merged the time from civil unions and domestic partnerships so the marriage is one of greater duration,” Rumbold told us. What this means is, even though a couple may have been together for 20 years, from a standpoint of an alimony request, the court may only consider how long the couple has been either in a domestic partnership or legal marriage. It will be interesting to see how this plays out; for now, though, we are happy to focus on the happier topics of love and commitment. At least for now, divorce can wait another day.
Our state’s LGBT civil rights organization, Equality Florida, immediately applauded the decision. “This is a huge victory for fairness, equality and for families now able to protect their loved ones through marriage. When weddings began all across Florida this past January, it sent a powerful message that the entire country including the South was ready for marriage equality,” Nadine Smith, Executive Director, told Hotspots.
“Equality Florida invested deeply in telling the stories of same-sex couples harmed by marriage discrimination. Our educational efforts helped move opinion in the Sunshine State. In 2008, Florida voters put a ban on same-sex marriage into the state Constitution. Now, just six-and-a-half years later, more than 80 percent of Floridians believe that marriage equality has been good for them or had no negative effects on the state,” added Deputy Director Stratton Pollitzer.
Many members of Florida’s Congressional delegation sent well wishes to Hotspots. “Today’s ruling reaffirms one of the paramount principles of America that we’re all created equal,” Sen. Bill Nelson (D) told us.
Longtime LGBT rights supporter Rep. Alan Grayson (FL-09) was ecstatic. “Love has conquered all! The Supreme Court has done the right thing morally and legally in confirming every American’s right to marry whom he or she chooses. This day has been a long time coming, and one that heralds another advance for civil rights in America.”
Rep. Ted Deutch (FL-21) remarked, “As a Vice Chair for the House Equality Caucus, but more importantly as a husband, as a father, and as an American, I am overjoyed by [the] Supreme Court decision…Today will be remembered as a historic leap forward in our nation’s ongoing march for equality and justice for all Americans.”
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-22) reminded us that while we celebrate today, many people did not live to see this day. “For our brothers and sisters who left us too soon, this ruling is many years late – but for all future generations, this ruling consecrates the bonds of marriage between all Americans, no matter who they love. We all owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the countless advocates, plaintiffs, lawyers, judges, men and women who displayed courage and bravery over this long pursuit of marriage equality.”
“Our nation was founded on the basis of equal rights and the Supreme Court’s decision reflected our values,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27) said in an official statement to Hotspots. “The ability to marry is now a right all Americans have and we no longer must wonder why one class of people has been singled out under the law.”
Rep. Kathy Castor (FL-14) was on the Supreme Court steps with her daughter Julia as the decision was announced. “The U.S. Supreme Court determined that equal rights are fundamental to our American values and our nation can now turn the page on a patchwork of discriminatory state laws that have blocked marriage equality. It is a great day for this historic announcement in Tampa Bay as we kick off our annual LGBT Pride Parade, one of the largest in Florida,” Rep. Castor told us just after the decision came down.
Rep. Castor was right: it was a great time for the decision. Record crowds flooded the Kenwood neighborhood and Central Avenue for the St. Pete Pride night parade. WFLA-TV News Channel 8 and Bay News 9 estimated that 200,000 people came out for the Saturday parade and the Sunday festival, making it St. Pete Pride’s largest celebration to date. The energy in the air was absolutely electric. People were jubilant, cheering and waving signs. The most popular? “America is ready for marriage equality.”
Yes, we are, and now we have marriage equality, from sea to shining sea!