Doom for DOMA, A Victory for America

- Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority….

Let me try to give you an easy way of understanding what happened in the Supreme Court yesterday.

The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a 1996 law denying federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples is unconstitutional.

Justice Kennedy, in his opinion, wrote that the law was “unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment.”

The ruling overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, which passed with bipartisan support and which President Bill Clinton signed. But even Bill Clinton had called for it to be overturned earlier this year, recognizing society has matured and most Americans embraced equal rights for all.

However, folks, not everybody believes that. Within minutes of the ruling, a leading representative of a right wing group declared that the Supreme Court “has now made the normalization of polygamy, pedophilia, incest, and bestiality inevitable. It is just a matter of time.”

Another guy got on CNN and said the decision “marginalized marriage” and was “devastating for society.”

There were a couple of other people who wanted to get on CNN but they were too busy cheating on their wives or abusing their kids to get airtime.

Look, the whole world is not on our side, but history is. So have faith. Gays and lesbians will love and marry, and the Earth will stay on its axis, trains will leave the terminal on time, and kids will still be taught mathematics in school.

The decision will immediately extend some federal benefits to same-sex couples. But it also sends a signal to Americans everywhere that loving couples, gay or straight, may marry and be treated equally.

The promise of the Declaration of Independence granting inalienable rights to all, means gay people, too. Any schoolteacher that tries to say otherwise will now have a series of Supreme Court opinions telling him otherwise.

The decision on the Defense of Marriage Act does not immediately alter any state laws governing whether same-sex couples can marry. But it sends a salvo out to legislatures everywhere the time for discrimination is over; the time to rescind their discriminatory law is here. It is DOOM for DOMA.

DOMA barred the federal government from recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples. The Supreme Court ruling strikes down that provision. It’s an enormous victory for tens of thousands of married same-sex couples and their families. Today’s decision will touch many facets of life, from health care to taxes, and from benefits at work to security in retirement.

In addition to DOMA, the Court's decision ended the Prop 8 case, which will soon restore the freedom to marry in California. Instead of a ruling on gay marriage they dismissed it and upheld the original court’s decision, which overturned Prop 8.

The 5-4 decision avoids, for now, a sweeping conclusion on whether same-sex marriage is a constitutionally protected "equal protection" right that would apply to all states.

Nonetheless, as LGBT attorney George Castrataro noted in an email to his clients, “The collective implications of the DOMA and Prop 8 rulings affirm and validate LGBT Rights and set into motion enormous legal momentum in further advocacy efforts.   This is a monumental day for LGBT persons and for Equal Rights.”

Indeed, it is, and if you have been a warrior for human rights, an advocate for social change, a fighter for individual freedom and justice, there is much to savor in these rulings.

The battle is not yet over though. As Nadine Smith opined, from the offices of Equality Florida, where she is the Executive Director, “For those of us who live in state's like Florida where our marriages are still not recognized, today's decisions are a reminder that we cannot wait for justice to be handed to us, we are going to have to get engaged and fight.”

We had hoped that the Supreme Court would issue a sweeping ruling that solidifies what we all already know -- that the right to marry is guaranteed within the U.S. Constitution. That did not happen.  We did not get a declarative, conclusive ruling for marriage equality across the country.

We're thrilled for those couples that live in states with marriage equality that will now be able to cement their love and their lives together under the law. But make no mistake about it. We still have work to do. Norm Kent


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