The following is the statement of John Knight, Director of the LGBT Project of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois:
Congratulations to the spirited and courageous Edie Windsor whose 44-year loving relationship to Thea Spyer has inspired a generation of Americans. Today’s Supreme Court ruling in her favor is an historic victory for Edie, as well as for lesbians and gay men across the nation. The Court today struck down the core of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which requires our federal government to treat legally married gay and lesbian couples as strangers rather than respecting and recognizing their marriages as it does for straight couples.
Thanks to the mettle of Edie and the talent and expertise of my colleagues at the ACLU National LGBT Project who, along with the NYCLU and the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, represented Edie, and to the many talented advocates who submitted friend-of-the-court briefs in her support, that discrimination ends today.
After today’s ruling, the more than 1100 federal benefits and programs where being married makes a difference – from family medical leave, to social security survivor benefits, to access to health care for spouses of federal employees – now will be available to gay and lesbian couples who are legally married across the nation. DOMA is the last federal law on the books that mandates discrimination against gay and lesbians. It is a great day for equality.
This decision adds to the urgency for the Illinois House to pass Senate Bill 10, extending the freedom to marry to same-sex couples in our state. Couples all across Illinois -- including the couples we represent in litigation challenging Illinois' discriminatory marriage law -- deserve the dignity and universal recognition of marriage for their loving committed relationships and their children. The second-class status offered by civil unions demeans these relationships and invites discrimination. With the demise of DOMA, the harm of denying same-sex couples the freedom to marry is compounded because the many crucial federal benefits now available to all married couples are unavailable to couples in civil unions.
The full House should act quickly to pass this historic legislation. Illinois can then join the growing list of states that are advancing fairness by recognizing the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.