After the SCOTUS ruling on marriage equality last week, there have been many celebrations (and rightly so), but there’s also a sense of “what’s next?” that’s beginning to come into play. With some states still resistant to handing out marriage licences and political hopefuls running on the platform of religious freedom, some might be wondering just what’s the next phase of the LGBTIQA civil rights fight as far as the right to marry is concerned.
I was excited to speak with Angela Giampolo of Giampolo Law Group earlier this week. The Philadelphia, PA-based law group focuses primarily on LGBT law, family law, business, real estate, and international law. Along with her work as an attorney, Giampolo has written several columns for notable sites such as Philadelphia Gay News, Edge Media Network and Philadelphia Business Journal, and has been featured as a guest on radio and television (including the likes of Fox News and WHYY, Philadelphia’s NPR station).
In this interview, Giampolo gives her reaction to the ruling as well as what people can expect now that the ruling has taken effect. She also discusses her hopes for America when it comes to minority issues in general.
How do you feel about the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality?
It was a momentous occasion, a momentous event in the fight for LGBT equality. My clients are jubilant, I had chills the whole day. I anticipated it, but when you anticipate something and it happens, it’s still unbelievable. It was one of those moments in which I simultaneously had a sense of dread. You don’t want the community to become complacent, thinking we had won the fight. So while I was reveling it and enjoying it, at the same time, I know that there’s still so much to be done. If anything, the LGBT community has become more and more complacent and feeling like we’re winning all these victories and we’re fine, when it’s just not. We’re far from it. It was sort of a bittersweet moment, unfortunately.
That gets to the next question I was going to ask—Did you expect for the ruling to come down that day?
Yeah. Everybody says “Don’t predict what the Supreme Court’s going to do” because those would be the one odds you’re never going to get. But after the Windsor decision and knowing that for 10 years now, same-sex marriage has been legal in one or more states, what was the Supreme Court going to do? Say, “Hey, Angela, even though you’ve been married for 10 years, we’re going to undo that. I know you became the parent of your spouse’s child, but I’m going to undo that”?
We knew it was going to come, it was only a matter of time…If I drive from here to Tennessee, and we leave out of states that recognize me as married, for four hours, we’re married. We’re just going to get through this state in two hours where we’re not married and you’re not the parent of my child in these two hours. What if we get into a car accident in those two hours? It just wasn’t sustainable. It’s not what this democratic society was based on, and that’s what we’ve been dealing with. You get a job offer somewhere and you transfer jobs, and you end up in a state that doesn’t recognize you as married, now we’ve lost all the protections in the state that we were in. This legal quagmire was not sustainable. We knew, especially after Windsor, I knew we were going to have a successful outcome. To what degree we were going to be successful, I didn’t know. But I knew it was going to be a momentous day regardless.
Many places in the US have started issuing marriage licenses, and other places, like in the south, I’m particularly annoyed to say, have been lagging. What’s the holdup?
The holdup is the same as the holdup has ever been, right? After Brown v. Board of Education, the National Guard had to come in…In some states in this country, if the Supreme Court hadn’t made a decision, we [women] wouldn’t be allowed to vote and slavery would still exist. That’s real. At a certain point, the Supreme Court’s job is to come and say, “Listen, we’ve given you [states] enough time to get it right.” Interracial marriage—the first time it went to the Supreme Court, it was 1952. By the time Loving v. Virginia was decided, it was 20 years later, and the Supreme Court gave the states as much time as they needed, but there will always be those stragglers who will never get it right. The Supreme Court has to come down and say, “Listen, you’re wrong. You’re wrong. Women are allowed to vote, slavery is wrong, get rid of the Confederate flag, and gay people can marry.” It’s all part of the same [thing] and…Mississippi and Texas, they’re not going to get in line.
What’s going to happen in the next 25 days is up in the air; how they’re going to circumvent this is still up in the air and we may be talking two to three weeks from now about how they figured it out. But ever since Windsor, conservatives, religious conservatives, right-wing organizations and states, have been planning the next move.
The argument they brought to the courts with Windsor was procreation, marriage is only between a man and a woman, what have you. Religious liberties wasn’t even an issue. Then they realized they were going to lose Windsor when the Windsor decision came out, and now they’ve been planning this new phase, if you will. It’s not shocking. A couple of months ago, the governor of Louisiana drafted a bill called the Marriage Conscience Act in preparation for today. They’ve been preparing, they’re digging their heels in, and we’ll see what happens. The visual I get is the whack-a-mole game…every time I think I’ve won and we hit the mole down, another [one]…pops up, and we’ve got to hit that. So, they’ll come up with something.
We’re already seeing some Republican presidential candidates saying they’re running on religious freedom or somesuch.
And [the ruling] is eviscerating our liberties First Amendement rights.
And some elected officials, as you already mentioned, are already figuring out loopholes to avoid giving people marriage licenses. You kind of already touched on this, but do you expect for tons of legal cases to come out?
Absolutely, absolutely. …[T]his is the next 30 years of litigation—the next 30 years of litigation not just of [old] cases. On Friday, I was granted a 14th Amendment right in the Constitution. The Supreme Court gave me a Constitutional right to something. For hundreds of years, religious people have had a First Amendment right to something, to religious freedoms [and] liberties and beliefs. The next wave of 30 years of litigation is going to be my 14th Amendment right to live in a society as everyone else does and to have the same benefits and privileges as anyone else does versus an archbishop’s right to their First Amendment right. When does my 14th Amendment right begin and end and when does his or her First Amendment begin and end. That’s never been decided by a court ever; it’s unprecedented…This is going back to the Supreme Court.
What a lot of us are concerned about is…if a Jeb Bush wins, the next President could elect three to four new justices…The next president that gets to elect the next round of judges, will singlehandedly decide women’s issues, race issues, voting issues, abortion issues and gay issues.
If this is the next 30 years of litigation with it going back to the Supreme Court to decide between religious and marriage issues, when do you think that will parse out?
The way that I would answer that question is with what I tell my clients; full equality does not equal full acceptance. We can still be fired for being gay, right? In Mississippi, you’re not even allowed to adopt. So now we have marriage nationwide, if you tell your employer you got married, you could be fired and you’re not even allowed to adopt. We’re not even close to full equality. Here in Pennsylvania, you could be fired for being gay. I could be denied an apartment, I could be denied a hotel room. At the end of the day, we’re far from equality. Let’s just say we do win equality—full equality does not equal full acceptance[.]
Even when we do gain full equality, we’re still going to have homophobic people out there. I don’t know when this next round of cases will go up because they haven’t even been lodged yet; we’re looking at around five to seven years before the next round of litigation gets dealt with by any sort of courts. More important than that, instead of focusing on that, I truly believe that all human emotion boils down into love and fear. [With homophobic people], when you really boil it down and pepper them with questions and really boil it down to why they’re anti-gay or racist or sexist, [you discover] they’re fearful. Until we deal with the fear of all of minority issues, not just gay, the whack-a-mole will always find some rational reason to exist. Even though I’m a lawyer and should be worried about how this is going to get settled in the courts, I’m more worried about grassroots [efforts] to make this okay with people.
When it’s all said and done, what do you expect from America in the long run? Do you think America will come to its senses and accept this?
…I’ll tell you what I want from America. I’m Canadian and I’ve lived here half my life. Whenever I go home to Montreal, they’re always like, “What are you guys doing down there?”…Even hearing what Donald Trump had to say about Mexicans, it’s so disheartening. We were founded on a melting pot. We were founded when William Penn [founder of Pennsylvania] came over here after being persecuted for his beliefs. He ran away and took all the prisoners with him because those were the only people who wanted to come. When you look at what we were founded on, and look at where we are now, I do not know where we took a left turn, but we definitely did.
Again, I’m Canadian, and there’s no apparent or dominant religion…In Canada, we truly live by [the phrase] “it is what it is” and whatever floats your boat mentality. Everyone in Canada is either a Canadian or a French Canadian. You never hear about an African Canadian, Italian Canadian, Irish Canadian or Asian Canadian. They’re all the same. They only divide is between Canada and French Canada and that’s because of language and it dates back to hundreds of years. In the US, people pride themselves on being Irish, African American, Chinese American, Italian American. We have different classes here because of that.
Canada really ended up being the melting pot that we were founded on. That’s what I hope for for the US—that we don’t have presidential hopefuls talking about Mexicans like they’re terrorists, like what Donald Trump did…and think it’s okay to do so on a national network…We’re still so divided, but we’re supposed to be the melting pot. What I hope we get to is that we’re truly homogenized, that we’re all one, that we’re truly the melting pot, that there’s truly a separation between church and state, and just live. If I’m not hurting you, then what do you care what I’m doing? Why does it physically bother you?
(COLOR | EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: ANGELA GIAMPOLO)