By Charlie Parke
Arizona Community Press | www.azcommunitypress.org
On Wednesday, June 26th the United States Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a federal law defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman, as unconstitutional. The Supreme Court also ruled in favor of same-sex marriage on Proposition 8, a California law, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Many in Arizona have long pushed for civil rights allowing LGBT community members the same benefits as other couples, however these victories have little direct effect on marriage in the state.
A push for the right to marry has come from various community members and organizations such H.E.R.O. Phoenix (Human and Equal Rights Organizers) and the Equality Walk. Concerned about equal rights the group walks each summer “a mile for every year Arizona has been a state without full legal recognition of LGBT people”. The group also spends time reaching out to various government bodies and community groups to ask for support of same-sex marriage legislation in Arizona. This year’s Equality Walk will be 101 miles and stop in 15 Arizona cities, beginning July 17th.
One New York couple has already been helped by the ruling. Sean Brooks married a Colombian man Steven but due to federal law not recognizing same-sex couples deportation proceedings against Steven seemed to be going forward. Shortly after the Supreme Court decision a New York Immigration judge ruled the couple’s marriage was legal in the United States.
Local woman, Erica Kepple, in reflecting on the decisions points out “In reality, we in AZ have achieved nothing today and in some respects have to start over. Of the two decisions, only the DOMA decision is of any significance. The Prop 8 decision is effectively moot. We have yet to see what the DOMA decision will mean. It’s up the President Obama to implement it, and it is at his discretion if he wants to extend federal benefits based on where you were married or based on where you live. However, the DOMA decision does not effect SSA benefits, which require an act of Congress to change. All that happened today is that SCOTUS threw the ball on federal benefits into the Obama court, and from here we wait to see how he will play it.”
Meg Sneed, co-founder of H.E.R.O Phoenix, states “ I know that we will stand strong as a community. To those who I have stood side by side with in the moments of injustice, those I have walked hundreds of miles with, those who I have shared a jail cell with – this will be a moment forever remembered… But it is the moments leading up to this that make you my HERO’s, my friends, and my family – and I know that no matter what that in the moments after we will continue to fight and together we will see justice and FULL EQUALITY.”