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Historic gay marriage equality ruling sparks celebration, debate

For reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing gay marriage across the country, Jeffrey Brown talks to Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church, Austin Nimocks of the Alliance Defending Freedom, Sarah Warbelow of Human Rights Campaign and Tevin Johnson-Campion, son of two of the plaintiffs in court today.

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  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    And joining me now to further explore some of the legal and cultural consequences of the ruling, Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT rights organization, Austin Nimocks, senior counsel at the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal group, Tevin Johnson-Campion, whose fathers, a gay couple in Kentucky, were among the plaintiffs who won in court today, and Bishop Harry Jackson, senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland.

    Let me start with you, Sarah Warbelow.

    A 5-4 vote, bitterly contented, as we just heard, how important, how definitive a legal victory was this?

  • SARAH WARBELOW, Legal Director, Human Rights Campaign:

    This is the end, guaranteeing same-sex couples access to marriage in every corner of this country.

    It's a critical decision, bringing rights, benefits and obligations that will strengthen families all over the nation.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Austin Nimocks, same question to you, is, how do you define the importance of this decision?

  • AUSTIN NIMOCKS, Alliance Defending Freedom:

    Well, the Supreme Court hasn't historically had the last word on anything in our country's history. The last word always belongs to the people.

    And the people are going to continue debate this question about marriage long after the Supreme Court's opinion. We knew it before the fact that it came out, because millions of Americans, tens of millions of Americans still believe deeply that marriage is one man and one woman, that mothers and fathers, men and women, both halves of humanity matter.

    The Supreme Court's opinion today is not going to take that away. We're going to continue to debate this. And we saw a constitutional amendment now introduced in Congress. And so this debate is not going away any time soon.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    All right, we're going to come back to that, to where we go from here.

    But let me come back to you, Tevin Johnson-Campion, an issue that affects you personally. So, give me your personal response to today's decision.

    TEVIN JOHNSON-CAMPION, Son of Plaintiffs: You know, today's decision was very reflective on America and how progressive we have come as a nation.

    I feel that, you know, the Supreme Court made the right decision today. My parents have always been seen as second-class citizens, and they have always felt like second-class citizens. And today's decisions really reflects that they are just like everybody else and that they deserve the same rights and privileges that a married couple gets to have.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    And are there immediate consequences for you and your family?

  • TEVIN JOHNSON-CAMPION:

    Immediate consequences, no, but I would like to see a wedding reception, yes.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Bishop Jackson, for you personally, how do you see today's decision?

  • BISHOP HARRY JACKSON, Hope Christian Church:

    Well, I was disappointed that 50 million voters' ideas, concerns were disregarded.

    And my real concern, though, is, where does the line stop where you have an overcompensation and religious suppression begins to happen, meaning that there is pushback? Right now, we wonder, who is going to forced to conduct weddings and these kinds of things and how free will we be?

    In Houston, folks said we want to see the sermons of pastors. If you preached a certain way, we want to come after you. In San Antonio, folks said that there are people who won't get contracts because you go to a church that preaches about traditional marriage. Therefore, we're not going to let you have a job or contract or an opportunity.

    So there can be on — follow-on problems that we need to face.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    And yet, sitting next to Tevin right now and what he said about his family…

  • BISHOP HARRY JACKSON:

    Very nice man, by the way, young man.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    And what's your — what's your response to him?

  • BISHOP HARRY JACKSON:

    Well, I don't totally understand the parallelism, if you will, between the black civil rights movement of the past.

    I think that gays have come a lot further. Old civil rights issue were salaries, opportunity to make money, education, access to public facilities. There's a litany of five things, places to live, that don't seem to be the kind of overt discrimination. If anything, in these days, I think gays have a lot of rights. And, again, I'm looking at that from my perspective and the perspective of many in the culture.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Tevin, let me let you respond, Tevin Johnson-Campion.

  • TEVIN JOHNSON-CAMPION:

    You know, I think I have a very good example of gays not having rights.

    My 16-year-old brother, when you turn, you want to go get your driver's permit. So, one of my dads took him to go get his driver's permit, and the other one, who is his adoptive father, could not get off work. So my dad takes him to the DMV to get his license. They turn him away, say, you're not the adoptive parent and you can't prove you're the adoptive parent, so he can't get his license.

    So my brother had to wait six weeks for my other dad, who is his adoptive parent, to get off work to go take him to the DMV. And, you know, it could have just been a simple process where my brother could have been immediately gotten his driver's permit, but he couldn't.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • BISHOP HARRY JACKSON:

    That's not a life-and-death type of situation.

    But I'm concerned that administrativia, if you will, can be overblown. I do believe in human dignity and the importance…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    All right, but let me bring our legal experts back in here.

    Sarah Warbelow, because what about Chief Justice Roberts said today, that — he essentially said, go ahead and celebrate if you want, but do not celebrate the Constitution, because the Constitution wasn't involved in this decision?

  • SARAH WARBELOW:

    Well, the Constitution absolutely was involved in this decision.

    And the majority opinion made that clear. This is about equal treatment under the law. And there are very real harms that come from people being denied access to marriage. One of the things that has happened all over this country, same-sex couples who end up in the hospital and are unable to make medical decisions for their partner, their spouse, those critical everyday moments that really are life and death.

    And individuals who are LGBT experience employment discrimination, housing discrimination, discrimination in education. It is a systematic problem for the entire community.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    And, Austin Nimocks, your argument is that this still should be left to lawyers?

  • AUSTIN NIMOCKS:

    Absolutely. If you have a problem with hospital visitation, we don't have to redefine the entire institution of marriage for the entire country to resolve that problem.

    And we didn't see equal treatment here. What we saw was five lawyers taking a debate, an earnest debate away from over 300 — millions of Americans. They picked, they sided with one side of a debate. That's not equal treatment.

    In a democracy, where we have heated ideas and important and impassioned ideas, we respect all the viewpoints and we put them together and we revolve things democratically. We don't issue equal treatment by taking a debate away from the American people, and a court making law and choosing sides, which is exactly what happened today. The court made a new fundamental right. It chose sides.

    And it took this debate away from millions of Americans who were involved in it. That's a sad day.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Well, let me — Tevin Johnson-Campion, I want to go back to something you said earlier, because do you see this as the law essentially catching up with the culture?

  • TEVIN JOHNSON-CAMPION:

    Yes.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    In other words, the — yes.

  • TEVIN JOHNSON-CAMPION:

    It is catching up.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    What do you see on your college campus? What do you see around you?

  • TEVIN JOHNSON-CAMPION:

    You know, this day and age, this generation, it is a lot more accepting of people for who they are and what they are.

    And I feel like the Supreme Court's decision was really looking, I guess, at the future. And, you know, they were making their decision based on where we're moving and where we're going towards. And I feel like a lot more people, especially where I go to college, they're a lot more open and they're a lot more just accepting of other people. And people aren't afraid to be themselves.

    And so I feel like the decision today was really sending a message.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    And, Bishop Jackson, do you also see that cultural shift, what — in your case one you think should be resisted? What do you see happening in our country?

  • BISHOP HARRY JACKSON:

    Well, African-Americans are still pretty much against, the majority, against same-sex marriage, not because I think they are prejudiced against someone, but rather because of the fabric of how people dwell together in marriage or not is waning.

    Cohabitation is a primary way that people live together in America today. Marriage as an institution is becoming more and more devalued. These kinds of decisions cause people to think in different ways about foundational institutions. So, my concern is, America needs a return to family strength and how we get there from here is unclear.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    But you're arguing for family strength, right?

  • TEVIN JOHNSON-CAMPION:

    My family has a lot of strength.

    My parents have been together for 24 years. And I have been raised in that household for — I'm 20 years old. I have been raised in that household for 20 years. And it takes a special kind of person to go through what they have gone through as a couple.

    I can recall when I was 10 years old going to my first rally, and they were banning same-sex marriage back in 2004. And here we are, 11 years later, and I get to witness the Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality. It's a powerful thing.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Let me just come back — we just have a minute — to our legal experts about where we're going here, because, Sarah Warbelow, you said you thought this was the end. Is it really the end of the legal argument? Are there not more fights to be had in the workplace and other areas?

  • SARAH WARBELOW:

    It's the end for marriage equality.

    But there are so many more issues that need to be addressed for the LGBT community, particularly in employment, housing, education, even access to credit. We don't have clear, consistent federal law that guarantees the protections that are necessary for people to live their daily lives.

    And the vast majority of the American public supports it. Poll after poll shows 80 percent of Americans supporting nondiscrimination protection. And every day that goes by, more and more Americans support marriage equality as well.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    And, Austin Nimocks, where do you see the legal battle going from here?

  • AUSTIN NIMOCKS:

    Well, we're going to continue to debate marriage and we're going to talk about rights of conscience for individuals in America who still believe that marriage is one man and one woman and protecting their freedom to believe and act upon those beliefs.

    And Tevin brought a great story today. There are kids who have been raised by same-sex couples who have a different story, like Heather Barwick, who said that she ached for the father she never knew.

    What's sad about today's decision is that the Supreme Court decided to go with one set of stories and discount other stories that do matter in our culture. We have Americans who are hurting. And they have stories that need to be heard. The Supreme Court chose, we're not going to hear them anymore.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    All right, well, I think you all.

    Austin Nimocks, Sarah Warbelow, Tevin Johnson-Campion, Bishop Harry Jackson, thank you so much.

  • SARAH WARBELOW:

    Thank you.

  • BISHOP HARRY JACKSON:

    Thank you for having us.

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