Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, ruled in a 5-4 decision that same-sex marriage is legal in all of America. It was a decision that was a long time coming ... more than forty years coming.
The first Supreme Court case regarding same-sex marriage was brought in 1972. Baker v. Nelson was brought by a same-sex couple who were denied a marriage license. The case was dismissed in October of that year.
The following year, in both Maryland and Washington state, rulings against same sex-couples were handed down. In 1975, a marriage license clerk in Boulder, Colorado, issued marriage licenses to six same-sex couples after finding nothing in state law to prevent her from doing so. Both the Federal Court and Court of Appeals agree that the law applied only to heterosexual couples. This was pretty much the norm in legal cases brought throughout the remainder of the twentieth century.
Fast forward to the twenty-first century, specifically 2003, when the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled, in the case of Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, that civil unions, for example, which were lesser forms of couples' unions, were insufficient to protect same-sex couples; only marriage could do that.
Just six months later, Massachusetts became the first state in the union to legalize same-sex marriage in 2003.
Setbacks would continue, but civil unions and domestic partnerships were put in place as a kind of balm meant to ease -- or, more correctly, appease -- same-sex couples. It is important to note, however, that civil unions and domestic partnerships did not include all of the same rights of marriage.
In May of 2008, the California Supreme Court agreed with the plaintiffs -- the American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights -- that a state statute regarding marriage that excludes same-sex couples was unconstitutional. Just six months later, the infamous Proposition 8, which denied same-sex couples the right to marry, was passed by the voters. A challenge to Prop 8 was brought before the California Supreme Court ... the court upheld it.
During this time, the following states passed laws or statutes that legalized same-sex marriage: Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, and the District of Columbia ... all the way to the end of 2009.
In both the cases of Gill v. Office of Personnel Management and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. United States Department of Health and Human Services, a U.S. District Court ruled a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional in its restriction of marriage for only heterosexual couples.
Over a year after Prop 8 in California was upheld, the U.S. District Court of Northern California declares it unconstitutional. (An appeal the following year would result in it remaining unconstitutional.) In early 2011, President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder declare they will no longer pursue to legally defend DOMA, citing it is indefensible under the Constitution.
More states would pass the freedom to marry with other setbacks along the way. In the general election ballot of 2012, four states -- Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington state -- had questions regarding the freedom to marry. The freedom to marry won in all four states.
Over the next couple of years, more and more states pass laws in favor of, or strike down bans on, marriage equality. One setback came in late 2014 when the 6th Circuit Appeals Court upheld marriage bans in four states: Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. A review by the U.S. Supreme Court, brought on by all four states, was immediately sought. Obergefell v. Hodges, along with three other cases, were brought before the highest court in the land. By the time these cases were decided on by the court, thirty-six states and the District of Columbia, nearly three-quarters of the union, had allowed same-sex marriage.
That brings us to yesterday. What a day!
The spire atop One World Trade Center
The top of The Empire State Building
The White House
Personally, the whole issue about marriage equality was a no-brainer. While some religious persons and institutions have a position against it, citing biblical definition, this issue was, and always has been, a civil rights issue. Sure, if your religious beliefs are in contradiction to the concept of marriage equality, you will be against it. When it is being litigated, however, it is now a legal question, not a religious one. When the issue goes before district courts, state supreme courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court, it does not, must not, and cannot be about religion. It is solely about the law. Period. What all of the multitude of cases that have been brought before jurists and states' citizens have continued to address is the legality of suppression and denial.
In short, it is the determination of the legality of separate and unequal. (Sounds familiar.)
Those opposed to marriage equality will continue to fight this. Remember the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and the 19th Amendment to the Constitution granting women the right to vote? And what about that other huge Supreme Court decision back in 1973, Roe v. Wade? All these have been, and some still are, being fought against. Sorry, folks, "a more perfect union" is not achieved by separation, denial, and inequity.
While rightfully ecstatic at yesterday's landmark decision, the gay community is also cognizant of the other injustices still in place against them. In addition to the numerous challenges and blocking of marriage equality already occurring, there are currently twenty-nine states where firing someone for their being gay is legal. Transgender individuals are not protected in thirty-two states. In addition, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would prohibit workplace discrimination against anyone based on sexual identity or gender self-identification, has been introduced in all but one of the past twenty-two Congresses! (House Speaker John Boehner stalled it because he felt its passage would become "the basis for frivolous lawsuits".)
To those who say same-sex marriage undermines marriage, I ask, "How?" Wanting equal rights and protections under the law in the context of marriage ruins marriage? Really? Again, these are persons who are misconstruing the difference between legality with religious beliefs.
The fourteenth amendment of the U.S. Constitution reads, in part:
No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or
immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any
person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to
any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
No doubt, Justice Anthony Kennedy had that in mind in the final section of his majority opinion:
Stunning, simply stunning.
And now, marriage equality is the law of the land. Under attack that it already is and will be, it is the law of the land.
Genul meu de artificii :)
Posted by DoZa De Haş on Sunday, December 28, 2014