“Gay” marriage is dead! The Supreme Court of the United States of America ruled today on what is the most impactful civil rights issue of my lifetime. In a 5-4 split, the SCOTUS ruled that same-sex marriage is a constitutionally protected right.
“Gay” marriage is dead! Why not “Gay marriage is now legal!”? Simply put, my friends, the days of folks like me being second-class citizens are over. There is no “gay” marriage and no “straight” marriage. There is marriage. Period. Full stop. “Gay” marriage is dead! Long live equality at last!
When I started covering this issue for LegalReader.com, it was a foreign concept to me, to be honest. Personally, I’ve never seen the need to have an outside force, whether “God” or government, sanction my love. Then, as we got closer to the decision, it finally hit me (what can I say? Sometimes, I’m a bit slow!):
This is not, nor has it ever been, only about marriage. On its surface, yes it is. But deep down inside, it’s about this country recognizing LGBTQ people, like me, as Americans. Not “separate but equal” Americans, but full-fledged, just-the-same-as-everybody-else Americans.
I am alternately exuberant, scared and humbled as I sit here writing this post. I’m exuberant because for the first time in my life, my life counts as much as everyone else’s. I am scared because change, big change, is scary and the folks who didn’t want to see this change come may react out of fear. I am humbled because I get to write these words. No, I’m not the first person to sound the trumpets and let loose the celebratory shout, but I am one voice among many to do so.
There are people, my people, who looked for this freedom, this equality, this America, for years and it never came. I don’t write this for the happy people celebrating in the streets; I’m happy, too, and my voice rings out with those of my sisters and brothers. No, I write this for all those who hoped, prayed, struggled and died before this decision came.
I write this for generations of my sisters and brothers who are not here to see this happy day. I write this with tears streaming down my face, weeping for those who lived in fear or who were robbed of the dignities and justice that came with legal recognition as real, first-class Americans. I write this for those whose homes were lost when their husbands or wives died and relatives moved in to claim the property because no legal claim existed on the part of the surviving spouses.
This is a legal blog and I’m supposed to be covering the decision itself. Bear with me I’ll get there. This is a happy day and I’m supposed to be writing celebratory words. I am. I celebrate with all my brothers and sisters, the ones who went before and died as second-class citizens in the Land of the Free and the Brave and I celebrate with all my kin who now have the same equality that has belonged to everyone else. I’m celebrating with those who will be born into a world where they will never know the feeling of being less than. These are happy tears, people. It’s been a long road, but we’re finally here.
‘Scuse me whilst I grab a tissue and get my butt back to work!
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in this case. I can’t say it any better than he did: “Under the Constitution, same-sex couples seek in marriage the same legal treatment as opposite-sex couples, and it would disparage their choices and diminish their personhood to deny them this right.” Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined him in this opinion.
Their reasoning is sound and constitutionally based, despite Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.’s insistence in his dissent that the decision had “no basis in the Constitution or this court’s precedent.” Today is a day of celebration and so, as one friend advised, I’m packing my “trademark snark” away for today, letting Justice Roberts off the hook with this one comment:
Read Loving v. Virginia, 1966 if you’re looking for constitutional basis and SCOTUS precedent. You’ll be surprised at what you may find there!
Actually, Justice Kennedy did know the Loving case and referenced it in his opinion. (I strongly encourage you to read Justice Kennedy’s opinion, my friends. This is history and we’re living it!) I won’t comment on the dissent any further; I’d rather focus my energy (today) on the decision.
Justice Kennedy likened the issue of same-sex marriage to that of interracial marriage. It’s an apt comparison. Up until Loving, interracial couples were prohibited from marrying by law. Social convention supported this law, indeed was the force behind creating it. But then, society began to change. People’s eyes and minds started opening to the truth that we are all equal, no matter our skin color. And eventually, the law caught up.
The same is true of same-sex marriage. It has been anathema to many in our country for a very long time. Truth be told, same-sex physical intimacy was once considered illegal and not that long ago, either (yes, in my lifetime I have been a criminal!). However, people’s eyes and minds started opening to the truth that we are all equal, no matter whom we love. Today, the law caught up with society.
There are those who say the “people” have been robbed of their right to decide this issue. The “people” didn’t decide Loving, either. Polls say over 60% of Americans are in favor of legalized same-sex marriage. It seems to me that the “people” already decided and the SCOTUS just made it official.
As President Obama said today, “This ruling is a victory for America. This decision affirms what millions of Americans already believe in their hearts. When all Americans are truly treated as equal, we are more free. This morning the Supreme Court recognized that the Constitution guarantees marriage equality. In doing so they’ve reaffirmed that all Americans are entitled to equal protection under the law… Today we can say in no uncertain terms that we have made our union a little more perfect.”
The man whose name became the official title of this case, Jim Obergefell, wanted to put his name on his husband’s death certificate as the surviving spouse and was told he could not. His comments after the ruling, “Today’s ruling from the Supreme Court affirms what millions across the country already know to be true in our hearts: that our love is equal. It is my hope that the term gay marriage will soon be a thing of the past, that from this day forward it will be simply, marriage. All Americans deserve equal dignity, respect and treatment when it comes to the recognition of our relationships and families.”
Mr. Obergefell, and the other courageous plaintiffs in this case: Valeria Tanco, April DeBoer and Gregory Burke, and all who supported them, I agree.
That’s why I declare today, June 26, 2015 to be the day “gay” marriage died and we all became one people.