David Mills said he felt a sense of relief yesterday after the Supreme Court struck down a provision of a federal law denying federal benefits to married gay couples.
The court also cleared the way for the resumption of same-sex marriage in California in a separate decision.
As an openly gay man, Mills, 70, a Danvers selectman, said he was unsure what the results would be leading up to the decision yesterday. He went to Washington, D.C., in March to watch several of the hearings on both decisions.
“This has been a lifelong battle for me to believe that I am a legitimate human being based under the cultural misunderstanding, hatred, the religious prejudice based on ignorance and violence that I grew up with,” Mills said. “The decision (yesterday) is monumental.”
The justices yesterday issued a 5-4 ruling that wiped away part of a federal anti-gay marriage law, known as the Defense of Marriage Act, that has kept legally married same-sex couples from receiving tax, health and pension benefits.
The Supreme Court also ruled California’s Proposition 8, a gay marriage ban, as unconstitutional. It is expected that California will resume same-sex weddings in about a month.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion on DOMA, joined by the court’s liberal justices.
“Under DOMA, same-sex married couples have their lives burdened, by reason of government decree, in visible and public ways,” Kennedy said. “DOMA’s principal effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal.”
Mills, a former Massachusetts Appeals Court judge, has previously said he’s lived with a “half-century of guilt and shame” about being gay. Noting the split vote and Republican opposition, “there are still pockets of bigotry and hate,” he said.
“This is another step,” Mills said. “There needs to be awareness and education to overcome centuries of cultural and religious ignorance. Little by little, the tide began to change as people realized they knew lesbian and gay people who finally were able to become visible and come out of the closet of social and cultural shame.”