Traverse City Record-Eagle

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June 27, 2013

Supreme Court decisions a 'first step' for same-sex partners

TRAVERSE CITY — Two Supreme Court decisions likely will reinstate same-sex marriage in California and wipe away part of a federal anti-gay marriage law that has kept legally married same-sex couples from receiving tax, health and pension benefits.

But the court’s decisions Wednesday won’t directly help same-sex partners in Michigan, who are constitutionally banned from marrying each other.

“I know neither decision created a constitutional right for same-sex marriage,” said Steve Morse of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northwest Michigan. “What the court seems to be doing is approaching it piecemeal.”

Jim Carruthers, a Traverse City commissioner, called the court’s two decisions a “first step, but a big step for this country.”

“This is a most wonderful day and we should all celebrate together at stopping discrimination based on one’s sexual-orientation,” said Carruthers, who is gay.

In significant but incomplete victories for gay rights, the Supreme Court struck down a provision of a federal law, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that denied federal benefits to married gay couples. As a result, all couples living in marriage equality states will get equal access to all the federal rights and benefits based on marital status.

M’Lynn Hartwell, a Traverse City social justice and human rights advocate, praised the decision. She added that same-sex couples banned from marrying each other should have these same rights.

“There are a thousand and one benefits to someone who’s been married for five minutes versus someone who has been together for 50 years and has no rights,” she said.

The other decision was a technical legal ruling that said nothing about same-sex marriage, but left in place a trial court’s declaration that California’s Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. That outcome probably will allow state officials to order the resumption of same-sex weddings in California in about a month.

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