SEIU Leaders, Members Celebrate as Supreme Court Strikes Down DOMA

St. Paul, MN – Members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) across the country and here in Minnesota are heralding the historic 5-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court this morning striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional.

Rainbow Flag in the Sky

“This ruling is truly monumental,” said Jamie Gulley, President of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. “We believe in fairness, in valuing all people. With this ruling, the federal government can’t say that some marriages are second-class. This is an enormous step toward achieving full equality for our LGBT brothers and sisters.”

“The Supreme Court’s historic 5-4 decision finding DOMA unconstitutional is a huge cause for celebration for gay and lesbian couples and for all Americans who care about equal justice under the law,” said Mary Kay Henry, International President of SEIU.

The decision means that on August 1, when same-sex couples can legally begin getting married in Minnesota, those couples will receive all the same federal benefits and protections as their straight counterparts.

SEIU members were active in the 2012 efforts to defeat the marriage amendment that would have permanently limited the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in Minnesota. They were also active in the efforts to pass legislation granting the freedom to marry in 2013. Javier Morillo, President of SEIU Local 26, served as a board member for Minnesotans United for All Families during the 2012 campaign.

“Our members know that our society depends on justice for all people,” said Morillo. “To deny legally married couples the same benefits and responsibilities as straight couples is not just. I’m proud our members played such a pivotal role in securing the freedom to marry for Minnesota same-sex couples. This morning’s decisions show just how important those efforts were.”

“All of our members should be afforded the same rights and responsibilities under the law, particularly when it comes to employment benefits,” said Carol Nieters, Executive Director of SEIU Local 284. “So many same-sex couples and their families were not given the same rights when it comes to the healthcare we provide to our members, simply because our state did not recognize those families. It’s incredible to know that our state and our nation will assure our LGBT brothers and sisters get the same protections under the law.”

Mitch Azarcon, president of the Minnesota SEIU Lavender caucus, testified at the House and Senate committees in support of the bill. She is a surgical core tech at Rochester Methodist Hospital and a member of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota.

“To me, marriage is about love and commitment,” said Azarcon. “The vow of ‘to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part,’ is a vow that should not be afforded to only between one man and one woman. It should be for all couples, and that includes gay and lesbian couples who are willing to make that same commitment with their partners. As a labor leader, I believe in the dignity and worth of all workers, and I will continue to fight for a just and humane society.”

The Supreme Court also ruled to strike down Proposition 8, the California ban on marriages for same-sex couples. In its ruling, the justices said there was “no standing” for private activists  to defend the law in federal courts after the state refused to appeal its loss at trial, meaning marriages can resume in California, but upholds existing marriage bans in other states.

“If Minnesotans hadn’t defeated the hurtful amendment last November, this morning’s victories would be bittersweet for thousands of same-sex couples here in our state,” continued Gulley. “Instead, Minnesota showed that we believe love is love, and that all people should be able to marry the person they love. Because of our efforts, thousands of same-sex couples and their families truly have reason to celebrate today.”

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SEIU is the workers who provide care and support for your family in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and the Twin Cities’ largest public and private buildings.  The SEIU Minnesota State Council coordinates the electoral, legislative and outreach work of the SEIU Locals in Minnesota to increase the effectiveness of their collective bargaining and new member organizing campaigns.  By building the political involvement of approximately 30,000 SEIU members throughout the state, the State Council is working to improve the lives of all Minnesotans.  The State Council’s board is comprised of elected leaders, members, and staff of the four SEIU Local Unions in Minnesota.

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