The news just came down from the Supreme Court: Marriage equality is officially the law of the land!
Today is a historic day, first for everyone who can now marry the person they love no matter where they live, but also for all of us who are invested in the advancement of equality. Thanks to today’s decision, same-sex couples will have their marriages recognized in every state and can no longer be discriminated against for wanting to adopt a child — just like any other married couple in this country.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on Friday that it is legal for all Americans, no matter their gender or sexual orientation, to marry the people they love. The justices found that under the 14th Amendment, states must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and recognize same-sex unions that were legally performed in other states. Justice Anthony Kennedy delivered the majority opinion and was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.
The decision is a historic victory for gay rights activists who have fought for years in the lower courts. Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia already recognize marriage equality. The remaining 13 states ban these unions, even as public support has reached record levels nationwide. As gay Americans we have waited with bated breath and wondered why the Supreme Court has waited until the final days of the term to issue this seemingly obvious decision. Every major LGBT equality (or, inequality) decision from the Supreme Court–including, Bowers v. Hardwick (it is ok to criminalize sodomy), Romer v. Evans (the you-can’t-discriminate-against-gays-just-because-you-hate-them case), Lawrence v. Texas (it is not ok to criminalize sodomy), Hollingsworth v. Perry (marriage freedom in California), and United States v. Windsor (the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional)–were handed down toward the end (in the case of Romer) or on the very last day of the Court’s term. Lawrence and Hollingsworth were both argued on the same day one decade apart and decided on the same day a decade apart (March 26 and June 26, in 2003 and 2013, respectively). The other cases were decided at around the same time: Windsor was argued the day after Perry and decided the same day. Romer was argued on October 10, 1995 and decided on May 20, 1996, the earliest of the bunch.
In the majority opinion, the justices outlined several reasons marriage rights should be extended to same-sex couples. They wrote that the right to marriage is an inherent aspect of individual autonomy, since “decisions about marriage are among the most intimate that an individual can make.” They also said gay Americans have a right to “intimate association” beyond merely freedom from laws that ban homosexuality. Kennedy consistently used the arguments by the opponents of same-sex marriage against them. He said that same-sex marriages would not diminish the dignity of marriage but increase it. Kennedy said that those who wanted to be married are upholding the dignity of marriage because they want the same respect that opposite-sex marriages have. In answering the traditions of marriage, Kennedy said that there is not an overall traditional definition of marriage because marriage has consistently changed over the centuries. Arranged marriages are no longer the norm, interracial marriages are no longer illegal, and gay equality has become accepted by the majority of Americans. Marriage equality has followed political and social change.
The majority determined that extending the right to marry protects families and “without the recognition, stability, and predictability marriage offers, children suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser.” The majority concluded that the right for same-sex couples to marry is protected under the 14th Amendment, citing the clauses that guarantee equal protection and due process. Kennedy said that marriage is a fundamental right of the constitution, which the Fourteenth Amendment’s a Due Process and Equal Protection clauses guarantee.
I am sure that opponents will voice arguments against following the Court and many have already said that they will use civil disobedience to resist the ruling. However, let’s be clear, they Supreme Court did not make the same mistake as in Brown v Board of Education and call for the implementation to be done “with all deliberate speed.” Not is this the 1830s when Andrew Jackson ignored the Supreme Court ruling in Worcester v. Georgia when he said, “John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!”. I have no doubt that lower courts will be busy as people will be forced to file cases forcing local officials to issue marriage licenses. I have little doubt that this will be the case in Alabama. There are some politicians who will use their hatred of equality to attempt to fight, but they will ultimately fail. LOVE WON!