To provide a bit of context, take a minute to allow Peter Cook to enlighten you on what the Supreme Court’s decision yesterday was about:
That’s right, marriage brought the Supreme Court June 26, or rather striking down the defense of it. In two landmark decisions, the highest court both struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act enacted in 1996, and preserved a California lower court’s decision overturning Proposition 8, which was enacted in 2008. Both decisions were monumental victories for equality in the United States and the Gay community. Proposition 8 only relates to California, as it was state law that only validated marriages between a man and a woman in that state.
The most crucial victory nationwide was taking the venom out of DOMA. This venom came in the form of denying rights to gay couples legally married by a state; rights that are usually allowed to opposite gender married couples. These rights can range from taxation to shared health insurance to being able to visit a sick spouse on the hospital. With this decision, the Federal Government can now never overstep a state government that does provide those rights.
With that last point, this decision should be seen as a victory for proponents of state’s rights as well. In an article by the Associated Press, Justice Anthony Kennedy was quoted that the law “a stigma upon all who enter into same-sex marriages made lawful by the unquestioned authority of the states.” The definition of marriage has been left to the states, and DOMA served only to overrule any state that did legally recognize married gay couples, and gave them rights and benefits accordingly.
What this does not mean is that gay marriage is now legal across the entire nation. This decision actually could set the precedent that marriage can never be defined at the federal level, and must be defined state by state. A few states have already made it legal, and California can now be counted among them thanks to the Prop 8 decision. Some states are deciding it in the near future, but without DOMA basically making equality at the state level a wash, every state will probably address the issue in the near future, even if that state has never been a significant location in the fight for equal rights.
The hurdles of a state-by-state struggle for equality are fairly arduous. Those aforementioned low-key states usually are the ones where the equality clause is met with fierce opposition legally and culturally. Also, because every state will be able to decide on this issue for themselves, some will probably choose to define marriage as a man and woman. It would truly reveal the bigotry present in some state legislatures and populations, but the decision would have to be respected, and the LGBTQ communities would have to adapt accordingly.
I hope that scenario never comes to pass. The Supreme Court has now given states the opportunity to lead the charge for progress and equality, and I hope they all jump at the chance. The longer this civil rights struggle wears on the longer this nation placates bigotry and ignorance, and forgoes important issues of the future.
Read the actual decision on Proposition 8 here.