CNN) — Gays and lesbians celebrated historic gains Wednesday in their fight against laws limiting same-sex marriages, saying Supreme Court rulings overturning the federal Defense of Marriage Act and rejecting the appeal of a California marriage ban represent a “joyous milestone.”
But they acknowledged much work remains after the Supreme Court declined to make a sweeping statement on same-sex marriage rights by not ruling on the issues in California’s Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriages.
“Today’s historic decisions put two giant cracks in the dark wall of discrimination that separates committed gay and lesbian couples from full equality,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Commission. He called the rulings “a joyous milestone.”
“While we celebrate the victory for Californians today, tomorrow we turn our attention to the millions of LGBT people who don’t feel the reach of these decisions,” he said.
The court rulings, delivered in separate cases, mean that same-sex couples who marry in states where it’s legal for them to do so will be treated the same as heterosexual married couples by the federal government when it comes to things like retirement benefits and taxes.
And while the ruling clears the way for same-sex marriages to resume in California, it will have no impact on bans in 35 other states where such marriages are illegal.
The mixed feelings about Wednesday’s rulings extended to critics of efforts to extend marriage rights to gays and lesbians.
“We’re disappointed in the short-term results and the short-term questions that remain unsettled, but the public conversation continues and that’s a good thing,” said the Rev. Rob Schenck, president of the Evangelical Church Alliance, which opposes same-sex marriage.