Savor the Supreme Court Rulings, Then Press On
The June 26 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage, makes permanent the landmark federal District Court ruling that found the ban unconstitutional.
Although this is a great moment for California couples and families, 37 states still treat gay and lesbian citizens and their children as unequal and second-class. Today, we celebrate with those who now have the freedom to marry, but we know that there are millions of others across the country who will still be treated as second-class. Tomorrow, our community will continue the work to achieve the freedom to marry for ALL lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.
Soon, same-sex couples will be able to legally marry in 13 states and Washington, D.C. More than 93 million Americans – nearly a third of the population – live in a jurisdiction where they have the freedom to marry. Contrary to the opposition’s scary predictions, when gay people share in the freedom to marry, that makes families stronger, which makes communities, states, and our nation stronger — and no one is hurt. The Supreme Court itself has stated 14 times that marriage is a fundamental right.
The Supreme Court’s same-day ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is an enormous victory and a joyous day for loving, married couples and for American families – and for equal justice under the law. DOMA, a 1996 federal law, barred the U.S. government from recognizing the marriages of same sex couples. Section 3 of the law denied federal benefits to same-sex married couples. In striking Section 3 down, the Supreme Court affirmed that all loving and committed couples who marry deserve equal legal respect and treatment.
Ironically, the downfall of DOMA now becomes one of the best arguments for nationwide marriage equality. The patchwork of protections that differ between the states and the federal government is in itself a reason for one national standard, and that’s marriage.
With Section 3 of DOMA gone, the Obama administration must take every possible step to ensure that every lawfully married couple across the country is treated with the equality that our Constitution guarantees.
This ruling means that thousands of married lesbian and gay couples can better protect one another and their children because they will no longer be discriminated against in federal policies intended to support families, like inheritance laws.
With the goal of nationwide protections from discrimination and marriage equality in all 50 states, we will build from the ground up – passing local and state laws, expanding our work with institutions like corporations and hospitals and schools, and overturning the state constitutional amendments that remain roadblocks to full equality.
You shouldn’t have to live in one of just a few states to be treated with respect. And we won’t stop fighting until full equality reaches every single person in every corner of this vast country.
Caleb-Michael Files is a student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.