CHEYENNE, Wyo. — The Denver-based Matthew Shepard Foundation praised the U.S. Supreme Court for striking down a major provision of the Defense of Marriage Act but said much needs to be done to implement the ruling.
Shepard was a gay University of Wyoming student tied to a fence and fatally beaten by two men in 1998. Outrage over the murder strengthened the resolve of many to advocate for gay rights, including gay marriage.
“It’s extraordinary,” foundation Executive Director Jason Marsden said Wednesday. “DOMA in particular has been blatantly discriminating against same-sex couples since the first state began issuing marriage licenses to those couples 10 years ago.”
The ruling will require changes affecting everything from income taxes to the military, inheritances and farm subsidy programs, Marsden pointed out.
“There’s probably no federal agency out there that isn’t going to have to go through some kind of rulemaking process or issue some kind of guidance to their staff and the public. But it’s all to the good because it will be recognizing these families as being legally equal to their peers,” he said.
Judy Shepard recalled in a release she once talked about gay marriage with her son and told him she thought it would become legal in his lifetime but not hers. She said it is “sad and ironic” gay marriage is becoming a reality in her lifetime but not his.
“But this case warms my heart, to think that his dream is still coming true,” she said.
Gay marriage is banned in Colorado under a constitutional amendment voters passed in 2006. However, under a law passed this year, same-sex couples are allowed to enter into civil unions, giving them many of the same rights as married couples.
ACLU of Colorado Executive Director Nathan Woodliff-Stanley noted civil unions don’t qualify couples for all the federal benefits that marriage would. “Today’s decision only holds some promise for those same-sex couples living in Colorado who married elsewhere: The federal government will recognize their marriage in certain instances. But this decision does not allow same-sex couples to marry in Colorado and it does not change the fact that many married same-sex couples living in Colorado are not considered married by our state,” he said in a written statement.
Meanwhile, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Denver said it was “deeply disappointed” by the Supreme Court rulings.
The Wyoming Legislature debated but has yet to approve any hate crimes bill since Shepard’s murder. Wyoming legislators this year discussed bills to permit same-sex civil unions and ban discrimination against gays. The legislation never made it out of committee.