Although D.C. has recognized marriages of same-sex couples since 2010 and Virginia has recognized same-sex marriage since last October, married gay and lesbian couples in D.C. and Virginia up until now faced potential problems concerning their families, including children, if they moved to or visited one of the states that did not recognize their marriages, Racine and Herring said in separate statements.
“Thousands of newly-married Virginians and their families now know their bonds are protected by the highest law of the land, sending a powerful message about what a loving family can look like in the 21st century,” Herring said.
Racine, who, like Herring, filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the plaintiff’s case that led to today’s Supreme Court ruling, has said that married same-sex couples from D.C. could have faced road blocks in hospital visitation rights, child custody rights, and spousal health insurance benefits if they moved to one of the non-marriage equality states.
“Today, a majority of the nation’s highest court said the Constitution guarantees the dignity of all couples equally – a huge win for all who believe in civil rights,” Racine said. “In particular, I am happy that same-sex couples in the rest of the nation will now enjoy the same rights and governmental recognition that they do here in the District of Columbia.”
John Fluharty, the gay executive director of the Delaware Republican Party, also welcomed the court’s ruling.
“As a gay Republican I feel that today’s ruling is a momentous win for freedom, equality, inclusion, and above all, love,” he told the Washington Blade. “I join with millions of other Americans in celebrating that ours is a country that keeps it promise of the pursuit of the happiness, liberty, and justice for all.”
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s office on Friday noted in a statement that voters in 2012 approved his state’s same-sex marriage law.
“Governor Hogan has a sworn duty to uphold the law and that’s exactly what he will do,” it read.
Maryland civil rights attorney Brian Markovitz said the court’s ruling would be especially helpful in ensuring that employment-related benefits such as health insurance or family leave for D.C. area same-sex couples who are married would be protected should they move to other states.
“For people in this area the biggest thing is you now have freedom to move without fear of losing benefits that you may have,” he said.
Dan Bruner, senior director of policy for D.C.’s Whitman-Walker Health, said the high court’s marriage equality ruling would send a powerful message to help “counteract the stigma and discrimination that still cripple the lives and hearts of so many in our community, and that undercut our health in so many ways.”
“And as the court recognized,” said Bruner, “full legal recognition opens the door to health insurance and financial and legal security for same-sex families.”
D.C. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton joined Herring in pointing out that the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states would also strengthen efforts to pass federal and state legislation protecting all LGBT people from discrimination in employment and other areas.
“Today’s decision for same-sex marriage is so unequivocal that it should encourage further action that is much-needed for full equality for the LGBTQ community,” Norton said. “The next priority should be passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act,” she said, in referring to the long stalled bill in Congress that calls for banning job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
“Passing ENDA should be far easier than what the court did today in its landmark 5-4 decision,” Norton said.
Herring said he was hopeful that the Supreme Court marriage ruling boost efforts to pass LGBT non-discrimination legislation in Virginia.
“I look forward to helping protect our workers from discrimination based on real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, and to making communities safer for LGBT Virginians of all ages,” he said.
Michael K. Lavers contributed to this story.