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Continued: Pleased by court rulings, backers of gay marriage now gird for fight to extend it nationwide

  • Article by: DAVID CRARY , AP National Writer
  • Last update: June 27, 2013 - 2:30 AM

On the conservative side, there was deep dismay over the Supreme Court rulings, but little indication of any new strategies or initiatives.

"The debate over marriage has only just begun," said Austin Nimocks, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal group.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which staunchly opposes same-sex marriage, called upon Americans "to stand steadfastly together in promoting and defending the unique meaning of marriage: one man, one woman, for life."

Lee Badgett, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts, predicted that the ruling on federal recognition would prompt thousands of gay couples to get married, now that there were additional financial incentives to so.

This group could include couples in states which don't recognize same-sex marriage but who are willing to travel to a state that does recognize such unions.

However, Rea Carey of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said many gay couples either would be hard pressed to afford such trips or would forgo them out of principle.

"Many people in this country, straight or gay, want to get married in their own state, their own backyard," she said.

While gay-rights activists pursue their ultimate goal of nationwide recognition of same-sex marriage, the short-term legal situation for many gay couples could be complicated.

Peter Sprigg of the conservative Family Research Council said the court ruling on federal recognition "raises as many questions as it answers."

"Will recognition be based on the law in the state where the marriage was celebrated or the state in which the couple resides?" he said. "The doors may now be wide open for whole new rounds of litigation."

The National Conference of State Legislatures said the situation was clear for married gay couples in the 13 states recognizing same-sex marriage: They will be eligible for all federal marriage benefits.

"Outside of these states, federal marriage benefits become more complicated, as many commonly thought-of federal benefits, such as jointly filing on federal income taxes, are tied to a married couple's place of residence," the conference said.

Gay-rights activists immediately began lobbying the Obama administration and other federal officials to extend as many benefits as possible on the basis of where a gay couple's wedding took place, not on the state where they live.

"The Obama administration can make clear, through regulation, that the federal government will recognize those marriages and not participate in state-sponsored discrimination," said Suzanne Goldberg, a professor at Columbia Law School.

Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry, one of the groups most active in building support for same-sex marriage, urged the administration to adopt a "clear and consistent" standard that would apply equally to all married gay couples, regardless of their state of residence.

"Marriage should not flutter in and out like cellphone service," he said. "When it comes to federal programs, even if states are discriminating, the federal government should not."

Wolfson, like many of his allies, was already looking ahead to another rendezvous with the Supreme Court, confident that public support for same-sex marriage would continue to increase.

"We have the winning strategy," he said. "We win more states, we win more hearts and minds, and we go back to the Supreme Court in a matter of years, not decades, to win the freedom to marry nationwide."

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