Civil and Human Rights

Nationwide marriage equality here we come

My new union is an emotional joy beyond measure.


With the Supreme Court’s historic decision Friday to review the constitutionality of laws in four states prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying, America may well be only a few months away from full nationwide marriage equality. As a lawyer who has been advocating for gay rights for decades, and as a lesbian, the possibility of that reality is almost overwhelming.


Certainly in my lifetime (I’m old enough now to collect Social Security), I never expected to be able to marry my partner. And yet, because we live in Virginia, which — thanks to the federal courts — now recognizes our fundamental right to marry, we are, in fact, married. This is an emotional joy beyond measure, and it’s also important in terms of our legal rights and the significant protections we now enjoy as a married couple.


But gay men and lesbians living in one of the 14 states that still deprive them of their constitutional rights are not as fortunate. And that’s wrong. The fundamental principles of equality enshrined in our Constitution prohibit each and every state from denying gay men and lesbians the right to marry.


Some have argued that the courts should not “intervene” in this matter, that states and voters should decide this issue for themselves through the “democratic process.” But when it comes to matters of equality and fundamental rights, that’s just not how our Constitution works. When states deny citizens their constitutional rights, it’s the job of the courts to step in and stop them. That’s why the Supreme Court’s decision today to review discriminatory marriage laws was not only historic, but also the right thing to do.


In one ruling in these cases, the Supreme Court can put an end to the balkanized America in which gay men and lesbians now live, able to marry in some states and not in others, an America in which the children of same-sex couples enjoy the important legal protections that come from having married parents, but only in some states, not in others.


We should know by the end of June what kind of America we’ll be living in. I hope and trust it will be an America in which marriage equality is recognized nationwide. The Constitution requires no less.




This piece appeared in at least the following additional outlets:


*  The Baxter (Mountain Home, AR) Bulletin (online)

*  The Arizona (AZ) Republic (paper)

*  The (Guam) Pacific Daily News (online)

*  The Vineland (NJ) Daily Journal (online)

*  The Green Bay (WI) Press-Gazette (online)

*  The Sheboygan (WI) Press (online)

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