SAN FRANCISCO – San Francisco Mayor London Breed and other elected officials Friday at the steps of City Hall celebrated the repealing of the Defense of Marriage Act and the U.S. Senate's passage of the Respect for Marriage Act.
The actand reaffirms that the federal government will recognize same-sex and interracial marriages. The act now goes to the House of Representatives, where it is expected to pass and then be signed into law by President Joe Biden.
Friday's celebration began with married couple Cyn Wang and Tessa Chavez renewing their vows in a ceremony officiated by U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla, D-California.
From there, everyone moved outside to the steps of City Hall. Equality California executive director Tony Huang was first up at the podium.
"The Respect for Marriage Act is an affirmation that the United States will stand up to protect the freedom of all Americans to marry the person they love," he said. "It's a reflection of the fact that for an overwhelming majority of Americans, across political parties, backgrounds and in every corner of the country, the debate for marriage equality is settled."
The road to marriage equality has been fought over the last two decades, especially in California, which put it up for statewide vote with Proposition 8 in 2008.
Huang thanked former mayor and current Gov. Gavin Newsom for issuing marriage licenses in the city in February 2004, which led to then-state Attorney General Bill Lockyer and others to sue to end the practice. The California Supreme Court halted the practice of issuing licenses in March and in August of that same year, the court voided nearly 4,000 same-sex marriages. Eventually the California Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2008.
When the U.S. Supreme Court made same-sex marriage the law of the land in 2015, many people believed it would be settled law.
However, when the Supreme Court earlier this year overturned its previous Roe v. Wade ruling on abortion rights, Justice Clarence Thomas in his concurring opinion noted that three "demonstrably wrong decisions" should now be re-examined using the same lens—a 2003 high court case that established the right to have gay sex, a 1965 case that established a married couple's right to contraception, and the 2015 same-sex marriage ruling.
"From Justice Thomas' own words," said Huang, "this new far right Supreme Court cannot be trusted to uphold its own precedents or protect our civil rights."
Next up at Friday's event was Jenny Pizer, chief legal officer for the organization Lambda Legal, who said that "scores of lawsuits, hundreds, hundreds of legislative and ballot fights and tireless efforts of thousands upon thousands of community members" have help change laws and most importantly change hearts about same sex marriage in the country.
Pizer could remember a time when only 20 percent of the public supported same-sex marriage, compared to 70 percent today.
"We celebrate this milestone, it's huge," said Pizer. "And it's not enough. We have to keep going. All of us together, making our case for full equality and for secure freedom, everywhere."
Breed also addressed the crowd.
"We're proud here in San Francisco to support this legislation and hoping that there comes a day that it's not needed; where it's just naturally a part of what people, human beings in this country are able to do," the mayor said.
One of California's biggest supporters of LGBTQ equality is state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, and he took to the podium to talk about the "historic" Respect for Marriage Act.
"I'm old enough to remember 1996, it was right after I graduated law school, that the Defense of Marriage Act was passed. And what a horrific and depressing time that was for a lot of us," Wiener said. "Fast forward decades later, and to have not just a party line vote but a bipartisan vote to repeal that disgusting law and to make sure that people's marriages are going to be valid all throughout this country."
Padilla also praised the federal legislation.
"To affirm the lives of millions of LGBTQ and interracial couples in America, we sent a clear message that members of the LGBTQ community are worthy of equal treatment under the law, regardless of who you are, who you love, or who you choose to marry," he said.
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