Public School Teacher Unions Back Supreme Court Rulings on Gay Marriage

Fred Lucas | June 26, 2013 | 6:28pm EDT
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Gabriela Fore, 6, of Upper Darby Pa., holds a sign with her moms in front of the Supreme Court in Washington.  (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

( – The nation’s two top public school teachers unions expressed their support for the dual U.S. Supreme Court decisions on Wednesday advancing recognition of homosexual “marriage.”

“What we have witnessed today is a major milestone in American history -- a monumental decision and a huge step forward for civil rights,” said Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association (NEA), the nation’s largest school teachers' union with about 3 million members.

“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,” Van Roekel said. “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.”

Van Roekl further said, “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.”

American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten called the decisions “a giant leap forward in the march for equality and justice for all.”

“The Supreme Court ruled definitively that DOMA violated the Equal Protection Clause in our Constitution and that loving married same-sex couples deserve the same rights and benefits as all other married couples,” Weingarten said in a statement. “The court’s decision on Prop 8, which leaves intact a district judge’s ruling invalidating that measure, ensures that, at least for now, gay and lesbian couples have the freedom to marry in California.”

The high court ruled 5-4 in the case of United States v. Windsor that the provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) recognizing marriage as only between one man and one woman with regards to government benefits was unconstitutional. The court, however, did not require all states to recognize gay marriage.

(AP Photo)

In a separate case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, the court ruled 5-4 that the defenders of California’s Proposition 8 did not have legal standing, effectively killing the 2008 voter initiative to recognize only traditional marriage in the state because the state government did not defend the law. The ruling also effectively legalizes same-sex marriage for California, a right bestowed on homosexual couples by the state Supreme Court.

Weingarten did not think the ruling was perfect.

“While we wish the court had acted to extend marriage equality for all Americans, make no mistake that the momentum for equality is building and there is no going back,” he said. “We are a nation built on the belief of equality for all—that all Americans are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The court affirmed these basic values and recognized that laws such as DOMA deny gay and lesbian Americans these fundamental rights and betray our values as a nation.”

“The AFT and the rest of the labor movement have a proud history of standing up for equality and justice and fighting discrimination in every part of our society—from the workplace to the ballot box to the individual rights and freedoms we cherish as a nation,” Weingarten said. “We were proud to be a part of the amicus briefs filed challenging the constitutionality of both DOMA and Prop 8.”

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