Supreme Court decision called historic

New Orleans resident Randy Reid called Wednesday a “huge moment” for gay rights and marriage equality after the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Reid compared the court decisions with the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York that are often considered the beginning of the modern gay rights movement.

“It’s the largest moment for gay rights in America since Stonewall,” Reid said. “I think this will (eventually) open the door for overall marriage equality.”

Reid and many other gay Louisiana residents celebrated the narrow Supreme Court decisions, but that elation also was measured somewhat by the fact Louisiana constitutionally bans same-sex marriage. Gay marriage opponents claimed a partial victory because the rulings were tailored to maintain, for now, the bans that exist in 37 states.

New Orleans resident Brian Wiggins said “June 26” is marked down as a “huge, red-letter day,” but that much work remains to end discrimination and truly create equal rights.

“In Louisiana, we don’t even have employment protections for gays and lesbians, so it’s tempered because we have a long ways to go,” Wiggins said.

It is sometimes tempting to move to New York or California, where same-sex marriage is now legal, Wiggins said.

“But I don’t want to leave the state,” Wiggins said. “I kind of like it here and so does my partner.”

Wiggins did point out some direct positives for Louisiana, such as gays now being eligible for federal military benefits and the questions marks surrounding the potential for same-sex Louisiana residents to receive federal benefits if they are legally married in other states.

But many religious leaders and politicians will push to keep Louisiana’s same-sex marriage ban in place.

Catholic Archbishop Gregory Aymond, of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, called the court rulings “deeply disappointing.”

“This is another way in which traditional marriage is being eroded in our society,” Aymond said in a prepared statement.

“As Catholic Christians, we are called to share our faith and to defend marriage as a privileged relationship between a man and a woman in which they share in procreation with God. We will continue to speak out respectfully and with love with those who do not agree with us, but the Catholic Church’s position on the dignity of marriage remains unchanged because it is rooted in the Bible and particularly in the teaching of Jesus.”

Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, offered his strongest comments supporting marriage equality yet by praising the Supreme Court rulings and arguing that people should be allowed to marry anyone they want.

Richmond said he believes the issue should be decided on the federal level to prevent states from discriminating against the gay community. “It’s analogous with civil rights now,” he said.

Richmond has been noted as one of a handful of Democratic House members who had not yet formally endorsed gay marriage. He clarified his stance Wednesday.

“I don’t feel I have to come out and say I’m pro-gay marriage. I’m against discrimination,” he said. “People should marry whoever they want to marry.

“I don’t go out promoting it; I don’t go out bashing it,” Richmond continued.

“I think people should love whoever they want to love and have the rights and benefits that go with it.”

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., is sticking with respecting the will of the states on the issue, although she has called it unfortunate that Louisiana banned same-sex marriage constitutionally.

“The court upheld that states have the right to define marriage and that’s what many people thought they would do,” Landrieu said Wednesday. “It’s not unexpected.”

The Republicans were much more critical of the Supreme Court, although they maintained optimism about states’ rights.

“The ruling today is a very tough pill to swallow for me and millions of Louisianians who supported the Defense of Marriage Act,” Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said in a prepared statement.

“But it doesn’t overturn Louisiana law, or that of … other states, which have correctly chosen to protect traditional marriage as being between one man and one woman.”

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, who chairs the staunchly conservative Republican Study Committee, called Wednesday a “sad day” and criticized the Supreme Court’s “activism.”

“This Supreme Court ruling marks a low point in judicial activism where unelected judges turned against traditional marriage, which has been a hallmark of American society since our nation’s founding,” Scalise said.

“By overturning DOMA, the Supreme Court has commandeered the role of voters and their elected representatives, and turned the definition of marriage over to unelected judges where this will now be litigated in the courts for years to come.”

Gov. Bobby Jindal chimed in that every child deserves a mother and a father.

“This opinion leaves the matter of marriage to the states where people can decide,” Jindal said in a prepared statement. “In Louisiana, we will opt for traditional marriage.”

Forum for Equality Chairman John Hill, of New Orleans, pointed out though that statistics show there is some reason for optimism for overturning the state’s constitutional ban against same-sex marriage.

For instance, a Public Policy Polling survey found earlier this year that 54 percent of its Louisiana respondents support either marriage or civil unions for same-sex couples.

“Despite a governor and Legislature that continually vote to discriminate against the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community, we are encouraged by poll data that show a majority of Louisianans support either same-sex marriage or civil unions,” Hill stated.

“Our leaders just need to represent the views of our state and be on the right side of history. An inclusive state attracts the creative class that we need.”

Michelle Millhollon of the
Capitol news bureau
contributed to this report.