My Story

Growing up in conservative West Michigan, I watched lesbian and gay friends and family members struggle to be accepted and be treated equally. There are gains and losses in this fight every day, and it is vital for LGBT individuals and their straight allies to stand up and to pay attention.

30 November 2012

All Eyes on the Supreme Court

Later this afternoon, the Supreme Court is set to announce whether they will rule on same-sex marriage in the upcoming year (update at bottom of post!)

If they decide to take up the case, it would most likely be heard in March, with a decision in June. Ten petitions are in front of the court, and eight of them are about the federal Defense of Marriage Act (a more detailed legal description can be found here). The justices are behind closed doors right now (I'll post an update after their decision!).  

In places like New York or Iowa, marriage equality is recognized under state law, but not recognized by federal law because of the Defense of Marriage Act (which the Obama administration believes is unconstitutional). So, legally married same-sex couples do not have equal access to federal rights. California's Proposition 8 (a ban on same-sex marriage that was recently overturned and is now being appealed) is one of the issues before the Supreme Court. If the justices take on this case, the court could potentially only rule for the couples in California. Or, they could rule on the issue of marriage equality in all states. I cannot express how HUGE that decision would be.

This comes after a series of historic victories for equality on election day. After Maryland, Maine, and Washington approved same-sex marriage, a total of nine states have legal same-sex marriage. 

This is addition to re-electing the first president in American history to support marriage equality. 

However, a total of 31 states have banned same-sex marriage in their constitutions, and 7 states have banned it by state law.

(From Mother Jones. Not pictured: Alaska, banned by constitutional amendment, and Hawaii, banned by state law)

So, even though the tide is turning, we still have a long way to go. And that is why this Supreme Court needs to take up the issue. Fighting for marriage equality state by state has left a patchwork of unacceptable inequalities. 

As the Supreme Court said in 1967:

"Marriage is one of the basic civil rights of man, fundamental to our very existence and survival."

This was in the landmark Loving v. Virginia case, which finally declared race-based anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional. To continue:

"To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law...Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State."

Let's not forget what this is all about. This is about rights, this is about equality for all, this is about societal acceptance, and this is about love.

Richard and Mildred Loving, arrested to for violating the law against marriage between a white and a black person in Virginia. (1960s)

Phyllis Siegal, 76, and Connie Kopelov, 84, the first couple to be married under New York's marriage equality law (Watch part of their ceremony. Beware of the potential for an outpouring of tears.)

Mildred Loving (pictured above), was quoted on the fortieth anniversary of the 1967 ruling Loving v. Virginia, in a rare public statement only a year before her death:

"Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don't think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the "wrong kind of person" for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people's religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people's civil rights."

This Supreme Court case could be huge. It could have a federal impact, or it could just have an impact on California. But, as Martin Luther King, Jr. said: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." So let's get to work!

Join with me today in calling for the Supreme Court to consider the constitutionality of same-sex marriage. From my family to your family, let equality, love, and acceptance be the ultimate goals

And let's get there sooner rather than later.


UPDATE 4:30 pm, 30 Nov. 2012
Supreme Court delays the decision on which case to hear another week. But it's likely that they will be hearing at least one of the cases. More from the LA Times here

UPDATE around 3:00 pm 7 Dec. 2012

The Supreme Court has announced they will take two cases about marriage equality during this session! They will be deciding cases about the Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8. This is good news! Read more from the New York Times here.

PS--There's an interesting film in production about many issues I talk about on this blog. Check it out to see if it's something you'd like to support. 

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