Thursday, June 27, 2013

Phrase of the Day: A HUGE STEP FORWARD

Once again, I am writing about a decision, actually two, coming down from the U.S. Supreme Court.  Perhaps "two out of three" is appropriate for how the decisions this week have gone.  After the Court's abysmal decision concerning the Voter Rights Act on Tuesday, yesterday there were two decisions handed down that they got right.  

Both were related to the equal rights issue of gay marriage: a review of California's Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  Proposition 8 invalidated any and all marriages between same-sex couples.  The Defense of Marriage Act both invalidated same-sex marriages between states that did not mutually recognize same sex marriages and disallowed same-sex marriage partners to be recognized legally as spouses, thus denying them the same legal rights as heterosexual married couples.  In the case of Hollingsworth v. Perry, the Justices voted 5-4 in favor of invalidating the ban on same-sex marriage put forth by Prop 8.  In the case of United States v. Windsor, another 5-4 vote struck down DOMA as unconstitutional.

The backers in California of Prop 8 were deemed by the majority opinion to lack any legal standing to challenge lower court rulings against it.  A technicality, otherwise stated as the case had no place going before the Supreme Court, that resulted in the Justices describing the petitioners' arguments as "unpersuasive".  California Governor Edmund "Jerry" Brown has directed that, once the injunction has been confirmed by the Court of Appeals to have been lifted, counties in his state begin issuing marriage licenses for gay couples.

Here are excerpts of the Court's ruling:
     "DOMA violates basic due process and equal protection principles applicable to the Federal Government.  The Constitution's guarantee of equality 'must at the very least mean that a bare congressional desire to harm a politically unpopular group cannot' justify disparate treatment of that group."
     "DOMA's principal effort is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal."
     "By creating two contradictory regimes within the same State, DOMA forces same-sex couples to live as married for the purpose of state law, but unmarried for the purpose of federal law..."
      "This places same-sex couples in an unstable position of being in a second-tier marriage.  The differentiation demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects... [a]nd it humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples.  The law in question makes it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives."
     "The power the Constitution grants it also restrains.  And though Congress has great authority to design laws to fit its own conception of sound national policy, it cannot deny the liberty protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment."

Couldn't have said it better myself.

As with the Voting Rights Act debacle on Tuesday, the same question can be asked of me, in terms of my being heterosexual.  What stock do I have in this?  As a heterosexual, none.  My heterosexuality is only a part of me, as is anyone's sexuality only a part of them, but as a human being and a citizen of the United States, my stock is big.  Equal rights should be given equal time for everyone.  Be a full and complete member of this society.  Love who you want to love. 

The fight for equality is not over, not by a long shot, with these two Supreme Court decisions.  Whereas as the judges' decision regarding the Voting Rights Act was a huge step backward -- was it ever! -- these two decisions collectively represent a huge step forward.  As a fellow citizen of this country, I celebrate with my LGBT brothers and sisters on this momentous occasion.

My feelings about the Supreme Court expressed in yesterday's posting have not changed.  I do still feel it is the latest bastion of tearing this country apart.  However, they got these two right.  The fact that my opinion is that the Court is two for three this week speaks nothing to equal protection under the law: it is not a law of averages.  

Celebrate today, fight on tomorrow!


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