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Back Local News Gay rights advocates celebrate DOMA defeat

Gay rights advocates celebrate DOMA defeat

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GAY rights advocates on Guam yesterday joined their national counterparts in celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court’s twin landmark rulings that upheld same-sex marriages in states where it is legal, clearing the way for the same unions in California.

Tim Dela Cruz, executive director of Guam’s Alternative Lifestyle Association (GALA), described the court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, as “a win for fairness.”

“The court’s ruling of DOMA finally puts an end to a policy that under no rational basis has discriminated against same-sex couples in loving and committed relationships for too long,” Dela Cruz said.

He added that the court’s ruling “pushes the struggle for relationship equality forward and maintains our shared and cherished values of equality and equal protection for all under the law, regardless of who you are and who you love.”

Decisions

In a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that married same-sex couples were entitled to federal benefits. The decision will immediately extend many benefits to couples married in U.S. states that allow same-sex marriages.

The high court declined to rule on the case from California, effectively allowing same-sex marriages in the state and raising to 13 the number of states that allow gay unions.

The rulings came as the nation’s Lesbian, Gay, Transgender & Bisexual (LGBT) Community Centers celebrate Pride Month in commemoration of the Stonewall riot trigged by a police raid on a gay rights rally on June 28, 1969.

“The high court’s decision is a win for fairness that could not have come at a better time, during Pride Month, which has been traditionally celebrated in June to recognize the gay rights movement and the painful struggles of social injustice and discrimination that has challenged the LGBT community,” Dela Cruz said.

“We echo President Obama in saying, ‘The laws of our land are catching up to the fundamental truth that millions of Americans hold in our hearts: When all Americans are treated as equal, no matter who they are or who they love, we are all more free,’” he added.

Battle will continue

Iowani J. Unpingco, organizer of the recently held Circus Pride event on Guam, said the defeat of the Defense of Marriage Act marked another day for the LGTB community to remember.

“It gives us federal recognition, but the battle for same-sex marriage rights and anti-discrimination laws will continue,” Unpingco said. “It’s a big ordeal because we are moving in the right direction and yet we're one step closer to this big revelation on the road to equality.”

Gay rights activist Derick Baza Hills acknowledged his fellow local advocates on Guam “who have fought and continue to fight so relentlessly for this day, this historic moment in history.”

“The decisions by the Supreme Court are historic recognitions that discrimination toward any community holds the efforts of our nation in moving toward a more perfect union,” Hills said.

He expressed hope that such progress in the battle for equality also comes to Guam.

“The work of those in our community to influence policy on ‘Human Rights as Gay Rights and Gay Rights as Human Rights,’ as famously publicly stated by Hillary Clinton, still continues until this government empowers and protects each individual’s right to marriage equality,” Hills said.

Military benefits

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the Department of Defense welcomes the Supreme Court's decisions and will immediately begin the process of implementing the provisions of the ruling.

“The Department of Defense intends to make the same benefits available to all military spouses – regardless of sexual orientation – as soon as possible. That is now the law and it is the right thing to do,” Hagel said in a statement.

“Every person who serves our nation in uniform stepped forward with courage and commitment. All that matters is their patriotism, their willingness to serve their country, and their qualifications to do so.”

Hagel added that the court ruling ensures fair and equal treatment for all men and women in the armed forces.

In a separate statement issued later, DOD said the department will immediately begin to update the identification card issuance infrastructure.

“We estimate that this process will take about six to 12 weeks. For civilian employees, the department will look to OPM (Office of Personnel Management) for guidance. For civilian employees who are eligible for ID card-related benefits, the department intends that ID cards will be made available to same-sex spouses of civilian employees at the same time as same-sex spouses of military members,” the statement said.

The court ruling has paved the way for the extension of benefits to same-sex spouses of military personnel that are currently extended to opposite-sex spouses, including medical, dental, interment at Arlington National Cemetery, and with-dependent Basic Allowance for Housing. DOD will implement these benefit changes as soon as possible for same-sex spouses.

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