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June 26, 2013
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The U.S. Supreme Court opened the legal door to same-sex marriage Wednesday, issuing two narrow rulings that did not confer broad new civil rights but still clearly established that same-sex marriage must be treated equally under federal law.
“The crowds are overwhelmingly ecstatic about this experience,” said Tom Goldstein, publisher of SCOTUSblog.com, describing the scene at the Courthouse. “The bottom line from the court seems to be straightforward. It was not going to announce fundamental rights for same sex marriage, but it will uphold the rights of people who have been married… sometimes you have to listen to the music not the individual notes.”
The Court’s majority sent the message that same-sex marriages and individuals deserve equal treatment. In the first case, it threw out the key sections of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), saying it was unconstitutional on equal protection grounds for the federal law to say that legal marriage can only be between a man and a woman. But the Court did not declare a federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage.
In a second decision, the Court held that a private group did not have legal standing to defend California’s Proposition 8, a same-sex marriage ban that was overturned by a lower federal court. Same-sex marriages can now resume in California, making it the 13th state to recognize these marriage. However, supporters in the state are likely to sponsor a new state ballot measure, making same-sex marriage legal, to remove the prospect of further legal fights by gay marriage opponents.
Supporters of marriage equality immediately hailed the decisions as big steps forward.
“Twelve years ago I came out to my parents. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and was not well received,” said Arshad Hasan, Executive Director â€¨of Democracy for America. “At the time, it was difficult to imagine them ever accepting this part of me.â€¨â€¨Two weeks ago, I married the man I love–and received the blessing of love from my father, who overcame his prejudices and preconceptions to take a huge step forward.â€¨Today, we as a country took a huge step forward. The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down DOMA is another milestone on the journey both my father and our country have taken: toward acceptance, equality, and love.”
“Today the nation took another historic step towards creating a more perfect union,” said Rick Jacobs, founder CourageCampaign.org, a California progressive coalition. “The judiciary has now caught up with the American public and the tremendous momentum our movement has had since the passage of Prop. 8 five years ago. Love should not be legislated or litigated.”
Taken together, the Court’s rulings means that progress on marriage equality is moving ahead, even if it will now proceed in a bifurcated fashion. In federal law, which includes 100s of programs and entitlements affecting married couples from healthcare to taxes, same-sex married couples will be treated the same as heterosexual couples. That is a major step for individuals exhausted by second-class treatment of their relationships.
But because marriage is a state-sanctioned institution, only those states that allow same-sex marriage will be able to marry same-sex couples. The result is marriage equality will face a continuing state-by-state march for equal status, even as federal law and programs are now opened to same-sex married couples.
In California, Gov. Jerry Brown is telling county officials to issue marriage licenses “as soon as the Ninth Circuit confirms the stay is lifted.” He said, “After years of struggle, the U.S. Supreme Court today has made same-sex marriage a reality in California.”
This article originally appeared on: AlterNet