With SCOTUS Rulings on DOMA and Prop 8, California’s Same-Sex Couples Are Just Like Everyone Else
By Judith Salkin
Let’s call June 26, 2013, “ME-Day,” when the Supreme Court of the United States took the country one step closer to true equality.
In refusing to hear arguments in Hollingsworth ET AL v. Perry ET AL, ruling that the petitioners had no standing in trying to repeal the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision holding Prop. 8 unconstitutional; and United States v. Windsor, which struck down key elements of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, allowing same-sex spouses the same right of inheritance as heterosexual couples, the court affirmed the concept that marriage is a union between two people, gay or straight.
For the Coachella Valley, which has a large gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender population, the rulings affects the community on many levels.
In Palm Springs, Mayor Steve Pougnet celebrated the California ruling as a boost for the city’s and other valley cities’ coffers.
“I can tell you that in 2008, we definitely saw an increase in business with weddings,” he said on Friday from his office. “I performed more marriages in the month before the ban than I had before. I’m looking forward to seeing that same kind of increase again.”
Pougnet himself married his longtime partner Christopher Green in 2008, with his children Beckham and Julia in attendance.
“Chris and I had a civil union in 2002, but having the opportunity to have our children watch Papa and Daddy get married was important to us to show them that we are no different than any other couple,” he said.
Unfortunately not every couple that wanted to marry in 2008 did. Some waited and watched the window close. He doesn’t see that regret in the future. “This decision is going to be good,” he said. “From hotels and florists to restaurants and other businesses the valley is a place for destination weddings. We’re known all over the world as a place that’s very welcoming to tourists and this will only bring more business to the valley.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by Douglas Trueblood, a consultant for the Greater Palm Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau. “There’s more to Palm Springs than White Party and Dinah (Shore Weekend),” he said. “We’ve always been proactive when it comes to being accepting, not just in Palm Springs but across the entire valley. In all the years that I’ve been coming to the desert, it’s never mattered if a couple booking a hotel room was Jack and Jim or Jack and Jill; if the credit card’s good, that’s all that counted.”
More than business, Reggie Cameron sees the changes of DOMA and Prop.8 as “humanizing.” “I spent years working marriage equality,” he said from his hotel in San Francisco where he’d gone to participate in Pride Weekend. “People were excited, but I don’t believe that they were surprised by the rulings; it was time.”
Cameron was there when California’s Attorney General Kamala Harris ordered state office to immediately begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, rather than waiting for the appeals period to expire before allowing the ceremonies to take place.
“She knew that there would be appeals, luckily the court rejected them, but on the orders of (Gov.) Jerry Brown, ordered that the (marriage) ban be lifted early,” he said.
He was at San Francisco City Hall when Mayor Gavin Newsome performed the first wedding ceremony after the ban was lifted. “When I think about humanity, that so much has changed in just the past 30 years,” he said. “This is progress and it can’t be taken back again.”
“Normalcy” was the word that struck Paul Ortega of Palm Springs. He married in 2005 in Canada and his marriage was recognized in 2008 by the state. “Unfortunately now I’m in the middle of a divorce,” he said.
Over the past weekend, Ortega stopped at a coffee house in Eagle Rock community of Los Angeles and overhead a conversation between two women. “They were in their late 30s or 40s and one said that now she’s going to be going to a lot more weddings,” he recalled. “To them it was the most normal thing in the world. It’s how it should be.”
“It’s time we move on,” he continued. “Civil marriages will take place and any church that doesn’t want to perform marriages, doesn’t have to. It’s time we turned the conversation to something else.”