Berkeley locals celebrate Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage across city

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JUNE 26, 2013

Following two U.S. Supreme Court decisions regarding same-sex marriage on Wednesday morning, members of the Berkeley community celebrated a major victory for the LGBTQ community.

The first case, United States v. Windsor, overruled the federal Defense of Marriage Act, while the second case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, ruled on California’s ban on same-sex marriage, Proposition 8. The decision for the DOMA case, which allowed same-sex couples to receive federal marriage benefits, was decided 5-4, with the majority opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Kennedy, a swing voter in recent years, was supported by the four liberal-leaning justices of the court. They ruled in the decision that the statute violated the Fifth Amendment.

In the Prop. 8 case, the Supreme Court, in effect, legalized same-sex marriage in California on procedural grounds, saying Prop. 8 proponents had no legal standing to appeal the case.

Jason Fauss, an ally of the LGBTQ community and a student participating in UC Berkeley’s Cal in the Capital program, was able to witness the decision announced at the U.S. Supreme Court building.

“It was nerve-wracking being in the courtroom waiting to hear the decision,” Fauss said.

As soon as DOMA was announced as overruled, Fauss said that there was an audible roar outside the courtroom doors.

Celebrations were not limited to the capital. LavenderCal, UC Berkeley’s network for LGBTQ faculty members, held a celebration on the steps of Sproul Hall at about noon. The city of Berkeley also held a celebration Wednesday evening on the steps of Old City Hall. The gathering was small but attracted passionate community members who shared their thoughts and personal stories.

At the celebration, California state Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, fought back tears as she shared a text message from her lesbian daughter: “Mom, we can get married at home. Happy tears when I read the headline.”

Ann Riley, a Berkeley resident and former UC Berkeley student, was also at the event and appreciated both the Prop. 8 and DOMA rulings.

“I plan to get married in 25 days,” Riley said.

Joi Soley, a communications director of Pacific School of Religion, a seminary in Berkeley, said that the school had an extremely positive reaction to the decisions. According to Soley, the school is extremely tolerant of people of all sexual orientations.

Many community members, however, continued to look toward the future, noting that the Prop. 8 ruling only affected same-sex marriage in California. Despite the procedural nature of the decision in the Prop. 8 case, Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington saw the decision as a sign of a changing social landscape.

“Although the decision was based on a technical standing, it is clear that the momentum is building astronomically,” he said.

ASUC Executive Vice President Nolan Pack, who identifies as queer, is an LGBTQ activist and was excited for the overall outcome of both decisions. However, he said he is concerned for other states that are still struggling to obtain marriage equality.

“If DOMA is a one and Prop. 8 is another one, we are at a 1.5 out of two right now,” Pack said.

Although the decisions are a victory for the LGBTQ community in California, more than 30 states still prohibit gay marriage, a concern to many members of the Berkeley community.

At the city’s celebration, Councilmember Darryl Moore, who is gay, furthered Pack’s sentiments.

“Let’s go out and celebrate today,” Moore said. “But remember, we have work still to do.”

Contact Saachi Makkar at 


JUNE 28, 2013