Essex Junction, Vt -- Today, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, paving the way to nationwide marriage equality. Vermont Freedom to Marry applauds this landmark civil rights victory, decades in the making. The United States joins nineteen other countries where same-sex couples are allowed to wed.
"Vermont Freedom to Marry is overjoyed with this historic Supreme Court ruling,” said Sheryl Rapée-Adams, VFMTF Board Chair. “We have always believed that equality shouldn’t depend on where you live or whom you love, and today’s decision echoes Vermont’s long-held commitment to marriage equality. It ensures that all Americans will have the same freedom to marry we fought so hard for in Vermont.”
Two decades ago, the Vermont Freedom to Marry Task Force formed with the mission of achieving civil marriage equality in Vermont. At that time, no nation in the world had marriage equality and, to many, the idea of gay couples marrying seemed a far-distant dream. With perseverance, dedication, and the grassroots support of many Vermonters, VFMTF’s in-state mission was achieved in 2009. After the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2013, married same-sex couples in Vermont had access to the 1000-plus federal benefits and protections of marriage automatically afforded to opposite-sex couples.
Even after DOMA was struck down, however, same-sex couples in non-equality states were still denied the freedom to marry, and married same-sex couples who traveled or moved to those states saw their marriages evaporate at state borders. This uneven legal patchwork meant that a married gay Vermont couple could find their family suddenly vulnerable--denied access to a spouse or child in a medical emergency, for instance--in parts of the U.S. It meant that Jim Obergefell’s name could be left off of his late husband’s death certificate because their home state of Ohio refused to recognize their legal Maryland marriage.
Today’s ruling is not only a victory for Jim Obergefell, whose name was on the consolidated appeals heard by the Supreme Court, but for every American who believes that greater security for same-sex couples benefits all American families.
Support for marriage equality has grown remarkably over the past two decades. The same principles of fairness that were argued before the Vermont Supreme Court in Baker v. Vermont, in town halls and at county fairs around the state, and at the Vermont State House were carried forward by equality advocates across the U.S. Each court and legislative victory mattered. Each heart and mind convinced that the loving relationships of gay couples should have the same legal respect as the loving relationships of straight couples made a difference.
It’s fitting that Mary Bonauto, co-counsel with Beth Robinson and Susan Murray on Baker v. Vermont, also argued for marriage equality before the U.S. Supreme Court. We’ve truly come full circle, from the steadfast Vermont belief in marriage equality to the fulfillment of that belief.
“I am thrilled that gay and lesbian couples in this country are finally being recognized and given the same dignity and respect as their heterosexual counterparts,” said VFMTF co-founder, Susan Murray. “Same-sex couples have always been an important and valuable part of our communities and have wanted nothing more, and nothing less, than full marriage equality. After many years of hard work by thousands of Vermonters and others across this country, that dream is at last a reality.”
The nation’s highest court has just sent a powerful message to the world that speaks of the value of gay relationships and families. With significant civil rights progress comes pushback from those who feel threatened by change. Some states may attempt to defy the Supreme Court ruling and pass bills to allow discrimination based on “religious belief.” In a majority of states it is still legal to fire someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Susan Murray added, “Folks in those states will need our help to end that kind of unfairness. Thankfully, Vermont has shown that you can end LGBT discrimination, and the sky won’t fall.”
Though there is still much work to be done to eradicate discrimination, both at home and abroad, today’s historic advancement is a hopeful sign that we’re moving toward a day when the civil rights of LGBT citizens are recognized as essential human rights.
Vermont Freedom to Marry is the nonprofit, all-volunteer resource for marriage equality in Vermont that spearheaded the successful effort to secure the freedom to marry for the state’s same-sex couples.