Today the Supreme Court announced two long-awaited decisions with important ramifications for the gay rights movement. In a move expected by many observers, the court declined to make a ruling regarding the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in 2008. That decision leaves a previous ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit striking down the ban as unconstitutional intact, effectively legalizing gay marriage in the nation’s most populous state.
At the same time, the court struck down a key section of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, in a decision that was less widely expected, but which may prove to be a more significant victory for the gay rights movement. The Los Angeles Times explains the legal ramifications:
The decision is a landmark win for the gay rights movement. It voids a section of the law known as DOMA, which was adopted with bipartisan support in Congress in 1996 to deny all benefits and recognition to same-sex couples.
The ruling does not legalize same sex marriage in states where such unions are not yet legal, nor does it set a legal precedent for a future ruling that would do so. However, these two decisions represent major victories for the gay rights movement, a movement that has already seen significant victories in the last year, with the legalization of same sex marriage in Minnesota, Maine, and Wisconsin, and President Obama’s endorsement of same sex unions – the first such endorsement from a sitting president. The Huffington Post reports on the reaction of gay rights supporters in the court.
As Kennedy read the majority opinion from the bench, cries were heard in the courtroom when the justice delivered the verdict that DOMA violates the Fifth Amendment. A number of same-sex couples sitting in the audience looked up at the ceiling, while others wiped away tears.
Here at MMXLII we’re struck by how quickly the gay rights movement has gained traction. DOMA was signed into law less than two decades ago, by a Democrat. Today, that law has been struck down and gay marriage has been endorsed by a president from the same party. The shift is impressively swift, especially when compared to the amount of time it took to repeal or strike down similarly discriminatory legislation targeting women and ethnic minorities. It’s another sign of how quickly our country is changing, not only in terms of its demographics but culturally and politically as well.
Has SCOTUS made the right decision? What’s the future of the gay rights movement? Will this victory bolster the movement or will it fuel a political backlash, a la Roe v. Wade? Let us know what you think in the comments.
Photo from UPI.com.