Unions Celebrate Supreme Court Rulings on Marriage Equality

by Rebecca Band

Today’s historic Supreme Court rulings supporting marriage equality marked an important step forward for justice for all workers. Labor unions in California and across the nation have been strongly united for marriage equality for years. In fact, the California Labor Federation and 50 other labor organizations signed on to an amicus brief in support of marriage equality back when the challenges to Prop 8 first began nearly five years go.

Tim Paulson of the San Francisco Labor Council, which was one of the most vocal parties to the amicus brief, celebrated the announcement, which happens to coincide with the 43rd annual San Francisco Pride celebration that kicks off this weekend.

Here in San Francisco, where it all started, workers are celebrating this great civil rights victory. As we say, ‘an injury to one is an injury to all.’ Now all of our LBGT members and their partners can be treated with equal respect. There will be a lot of celebrating in San Francisco tonight!

Paulson’s sentiments were echoed across the Labor Movement. California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski points out that this victory puts us on a new path, but the fight for equality is far from over:

Today’s Supreme Court decisions in support of marriage equality were decisive victories that offered a historic, yet long-overdue, recognition of respect and justice to California’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender workers. Prop. 8 was an unjust law that stripped Californians of a fundamental right — the right to marry the person they love. We’re thrilled all California couples will be afforded the fundamental right of marriage equality. With today’s rulings on the DOMA and Prop 8, all California’s workers can celebrate that a measure of justice has been restored.

But the pursuit of equality doesn’t end today. We have a long way to go to ensure all workers are treated equally, and with the respect and dignity they deserve. While we are pleased with today’s decisions, the California labor movement remains committed to ensuring that injustice is rooted out and overturned wherever it exists.

United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals  (UNAC/UHCP) Executive Vice President Denise Duncan BS, RN:

UNAC/UHCP applauds the Supreme Court’s ruling that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, invalid, and discriminatory. This decision will allow same sex spouses to receive the same benefits other married couples have access to under the law, including the ability to share health care, Medicare, Medicaid and COBRA benefits with their spouses. UNAC/UHCP supports equal and expanded access to health care and a state where two people wanting to marry can be recognized as spouses under the law.

California Teachers Association President Dean Vogel:

The U.S. Supreme Court decisions can go down as a major teachable moment of the past 50 years. CTA believes all people should be allowed equal protection under the law and that the legal rights and responsibilities of marriage and civil unions belong to all adults regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, religion or socio-economic status. We celebrate the decisions handed down today. I am moved because our gay brothers and sisters who have taught alongside us are now recognized by our government as equals. In order for us to move forward as a united nation, we must continue to engage in the fight for social justice, protect civil rights and ensure equality for all.

National Nurses United (NNU) Co-President Deborah Burger, RN:

Today’s rulings on the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 are an important milestone in our society’s quest for equal rights under the law for all Americans. These decisions are a testimony to the years of work of individuals and organizations that have fought for full equality for lesbians and gay men that has now been embraced by the majority of all Americans. The Court decisions today, while crafted in the most narrow fashion, is a welcome acceptance of the popular will.

LA County Federation of Labor’s Maria Elena Durazo:

The labor movement opposes divisive laws like the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 that make distinctions between workers’ benefits and civil rights based on their sexual orientation. Just like we can’t tolerate immigrants being treated as second class workers, we will not support any provisions that discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers. We applaud the Supreme Court’s decision and will stand with the LGBT community in their continuing fight for equality.

AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka:

The Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 were radical and divisive laws that never should have been. Now, we can begin to fully clear the dark legal cloud that has hung over our nation. While justices ruled on the right side of history today, there is far more work to be done in the pursuit of equality. As a nation, we must continue to stand for what is right not only in freedom to marry for all loving and committed couples, but address other major issues for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers such as employment discrimination, health care access and more. We rejoice in today’s victory and are ready and willing to take on the challenges that still exist.

Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW):

The UFCW strongly supports full equality for the LGBT community. That means equal rights in employment, immigration, and yes-marriage. The momentum for marriage equality is growing every day. The Supreme Court today restored it in California, Minnesota recently became the 12th state to recognize same-sex unions, and more are on the way. It is not a matter of if but when all Americans will have the freedom to marry. The UFCW looks forward to that day.

National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel:

What we have witnessed today is a major milestone in American history-a monumental decision and a huge step forward for civil rights. As an educator, I cannot help but be moved by the thought of all of the children and students we serve whose families will now be made whole. I am reminded of the struggle, and I think of how far we, as a society, have come to let love overcome hate and bigotry. At the same time, today’s victory is tempered with the reality of yesterday’s decision, which dealt such a horrible blow to the progress we’ve made in our journey to achieve racial equality.  The fight for social justice goes on, and because of what we do and who we serve, we will always be on the frontline of this battlefield.

The Communications Workers of America issued the following statement:

Today’s decision that same-sex couples are entitled to federal benefits opens the door to ending all discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Similarly, the Supreme Court determined that a California court’s ruling on “Proposition 8,” the law that had restricted marriage to opposite sex couples, should stand. That decision restores marriage equality as the rule in that state and means that same sex couples will be able to cast off the second class status that some have sought to keep in place. It’s the 21st century. It’s past time to shed the prejudices that harm our society. Today’s decisions are a good step in that direction.

Pride At Work Executive Director Darren Phelps:

Marriage equality is about treating all couples with respect, but it also has major financial and legal impacts that will allow more same-sex couples to more effectively support their families. We will continue efforts to win marriage equality in more states, but there are also vital issues remaining for the LGBT community-our lives are about more than marriage … All of our communities must and will continue working together for the rights of all people, be it voting rights, marriage equality or continuing the fight to end employment discrimination.

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) International President Mary Kay Henry agrees:

Despite this historic day for LGBT rights, we must remember that there is more work to do to ensure equality for all Americans. In 29 states a person can still be fired simply because of who he or she loves. Passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is the next fight we must take on if we are truly going to ensure equality on the job for all Americans and we look forward to joining with our allies to end discrimination in the workplace.

One thought on “Unions Celebrate Supreme Court Rulings on Marriage Equality”

  1. I can understand the position of the California Labor Federation on this.  But what about their position on the climate? Is it like the AFL/CIO who wants to build the Keystone XL Pipeline and considers Obama’s climate change policies to be a war on coal?

    AFL/CIO President Trumka said “Robust and meaningful participation by all stakeholders, including unions, throughout this process is the only way to avoid inflicting unnecessary hardship and suffering on workers and communities.”  In other words, keep mining coal. Keep pumping gas.

    Not surprising since Trumka headed the UMW and, in a climate conscious world, many of those folks won’t have a job.

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