Florida GLBT Democratic Caucus President's Reaction to Supreme Court DOMA Decision
In two monumental decisions today the U.S. Supreme Court has paved the way for greater marriage equality. In one case it declared provisions of the Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional that denied federal benefits to same-sex married couples. In another it affirmed a lower court’s decision that California voters did not have the right to take away same-sex marriages through Proposition 8. After the 5-to-4 decisions were announced, lawyer David Boies said the country is closer to true equality. For local reaction to the Supreme Court’s decisions on same-sex marriage, Sean Kinane spoke with Sally Phillips, president of the Florida GLBT Democratic Caucus.
"It's a glorious day! I think emotionally, that's kind of where we are flying on right now. I think the results of todays Supreme Court reaction and decision both on the overturning and the unconstitutional decision on DOMA - that's the Defense of Mariage Act - and throwing the Prop 8 decision back to California and making sure that marriage starts again. In that state, I think it's going to have such far reaching results. I think, right now, we are going on pure emotion, but what it makes me feel, as a member of the LGBT community and as a lesbian who's been living this life for a long, long time, it makes me feel like I am no longer a second class citizen, like my love for my partner and my commitment for the person I have chosen to spend my life with is truly recognized. In that case, I think it just makes me feel like I am just as good, we are just as good, and our love means just as much as anyone else."
One of the things that DOMA did was people who were married in opposite-sex couples had different rights than people in same-sex relationships. What are some of those rights that people in same-sex marriages can have now under the federal law?
"Well, you know, there are close to 1400 different rights and responsibilities and we also focus on the responsibility part of it too. It's taking care of each other, but some of those rights and responsibilities, some of the big ones, that actually won - that DOMA was based on - is two women who were married or together for 42 years. One of them has actually passed away and because the property they had worked so hard together to build went to the other. The one woman who was the surviving partner of the two had to spend over $300,000 in inheritance tax. If their marriage had been truly legal and truly recognized as it's going to be now, that would have been treated just like an opposite-gendered couple who worked toward property and then the otherone just automatically inherits it. Again, this is only the first day of this and I'm not a legal person at all, but I do believe federal tax benefits will now allow us to file joint income tax on a federal basis. I believe any social security benefits will now go to our survivor, which would be our same gender partner. I think those are two huge things thats have cost us money to be in the relationships that we are in."
Voters in Florida have forbidden same-gender relationships from being considered marriage. Are you taking steps in Florida to change that and to get people to have marriage equality in Florida?
"Again, this has just happened today so my thought is there are probably talks already in place to overturn Amendment 2 that was passed back in 2008 and is now part of our states constitution. I think that the biggest thing that we as active citizens and as active members of the LGBT community and as our allies also is to look very very closely now at overturning the marriage amendment and bringing same-gender marriage to the state of Florida. For those of us who live and love in this state, that's what we need to happen.
Finally, there are rallys tonight in St. Petersburg and Tampa. Tell us a little bit about those.
"This is going to be an exciting night for us. In Tampa, I know that at the Sam Gibbons Court House at seven o'clock there will be a rally. We had planned this for the day this decision came out. This will be a joyous occasion for us tonight. I believe over in Pinellas County it will be in Straub Park and I believe it is starting at five o'clock this afternoon and it's the same marriage equality celebration. We will truly be celebrating tonight and anyone who's out there please come down and help us celebrate this wonderful occasion."
Click here to watch Sally Phillips interview.
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