The dust didn’t settle on the Supreme Court’s landmark gay marriage ruling before advocates began announcing their next agenda items in the fight for equality.
Top gay-rights issues include protections for sexual minorities in jobs, housing, health care, senior services and in the treatment of youth, in and out of school.
On the other side, religious freedom must be shored up legally, and churches should take immediate action to clarify their statements of faith and policies on weddings and facilities, traditional-values advocates said.
Meanwhile, this weekend promises to be “quite energetic” as New York City, Chicago and San Francisco host Gay Pride parades.
It’s time to “celebrate, celebrate, celebrate,” Kevin Cathcart, executive director of Lambda Legal, told a telephone briefing with more than 1,000 people on Friday. But after that, he said, “there’s an enormous amount of work to be done.”
Friday’s 5-4 ruling in the Obergefell v. Hodges gay marriage case struck down man-woman marriage laws in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee — as well as those in 10 other hold-out states. Gay couples married Friday in many places.
Gay-rights advocates were ecstatic over the “broad language” in the majority ruling.
It’s more than a victory for marriage, it’s “a victory for all LGBT people,” said Mr. Cathcart, predicting that Obergefell will be used and cited “in all manner of civil rights cases” for years.
Funding will now be directed at efforts to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in employment, housing and health care, Mr. Cathcart said, noting that transgender violence is a major concern.
Religious freedom fights coming
For opponents of gay marriage, the ruling means an all-out defense of First Amendment freedoms of religious, speech and association.
“We will denounce this [same-sex marriage] practice in our services, we will not teach it in our schools, we will refuse to officiate at this type of wedding, and we not accept any encroachments on our First Amendment rights,” said Pastor Rick Scarborough, president of Vision America Action.
“The court can no more redefine marriage than it can redefine gravity,” said Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel.
While Christ’s followers “reject and repudiate all vestiges of homophobia, intolerance and bigotry, “I know for certain that the moment biblical truth stands defined as hate speech in our nation, America, as we know her, will cease to exist,” warned the Rev. Samuel Rodrigues, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.
Some faith leaders took heart in Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s words that religious people “may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.”
But Andrea Lafferty, president of the Traditional Values Coalition, said those words meant people can “advocate” for traditional marriage, but they “cannot operate according to those beliefs.” Instead, she said, First Amendment religious freedoms will surely be pitted against the ruling’s newly established “right to dignity.”
The high court’s opinion “gives lip service to the rights of people of faith,” said Maureen Ferguson of the Catholic Association. Already Catholic Charities agencies have been forced out of adoption, and Christians who are bakers, florists or fire chiefs have suffered “merely for respectful expression of their views,” she said.
Members of Congress, led by Sen. Mike Lee, Utah Republican, and Rep. Raul Laborador, Idaho Republican, have introduced a First Amendment Defense Act, which would prevent the federal government from discriminating against anyone who believes marriage is the union of one man and one woman.
Congress and state governments should “move immediately” to enact First Amendment Defense Acts, said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage.
Jennifer Roback Morse, founder and president of the Ruth Institute, said states must also pass laws to require “the genetic parents” be named on “every birth certificate, for every child,” so vital information will not be hidden or falsified from any person.
The nation needs “the strongest possible religious-freedom bills,” and strong state-based family policy partners, said Tom Minnery, president of chief executive of CitizenLink.com.
Churches should “adopt a clear statement of faith regarding human sexuality and marriage,” clarify that church weddings “are Christian worship services” and adopt a policy restricting use of ministry facilities to the ministry’s religious purposes, said Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association.
“Although the ongoing debate about marriage now enters a new phase, it is far from over,” said Jim Campbell, senior legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom.
Marriage case over
The freedom-to-marry quest, however, is done, said Camilla Taylor, national director of Lambda Legal’s marriage project, on Friday’s telephone briefing.
The Obergefell decision “is so sweeping and so affirming of the personhood of lesbian and gay people that it is not possible to try and challenge this decision in any way,” she said.
There will be pushback from opponents of gay marriage, Ms. Taylor said. “They’re not lying down for this.”
But Lambda Legal and their allies will now be vigilant to make sure politicians don’t wriggle out of the high court’s “clear” language about fundamental rights.
States should not try to “carve” out marriage rights or “make some kind of marriage-lite or second-tier type of marriage for same-sex couples and their children,” Ms. Taylor said. Instead, they have to ensure that gay couples have such things as easy access to their children’s birth certificates.
Moreover, in just this legislative session, there have been more than 100 “religious-refusal bills,” some of which have passed, Ms. Taylor added. “That is another way that people may try to challenge implementation of this decision,” so “we will be hard at work combatting those efforts.”
For others, it was a time for prayer and reflection.
“Keep looking up. God will have the final word in this matter,” Ms. King said.