Today is a day in which all of us who have stood on the right side of history should feel great pride. It is also a day for those who have not supported equality to witness great positive change and realize that it is never too late to be a part of the future.
– Jack Antonoff, guitarist from fun.
For years, supporters of equality have stated that their opposition stands on the wrong side of history. Slowly, through the years, the inequality of race, gender, and sexual orientation have been fading, always to the chagrin of conservatives hoping to maintain their privilege. They raise the spectre of Communism, harsh punishment from God, and just a general slippery slope toward the end of civilization.
Looks like the Moral Majority is going to need a lot of umbrellas.
“DOMA’s principal effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority in a 5-4 decision that cited Fifth Amendment protection of equality under the law. He was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. The decision overturns the 1996 law which stated the federal government would not recognize marriages between two people of the same gender for federal purposes, regardless of their individual state’s law governing marriage equality.
In short, legally recognized marriages at the state level must now be recognized federally, and those couples would receive the federal benefits due any other marriage.
The ruling on Proposition 8, while a very positive decision, has different implications. Instead of overturning Prop 8 directly, the court took a Tenth Amendment stance, with Chief Justice John Roberts stating “We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to. We decline to do so for the first time here.” In other words, the court will not hear a challenge of a state’s ruling on state law from a private individual; the matter will be left for the state to decide for themselves.
Prop 8 was a heavily funded ballot initiative to ban equal marriage (it passed with 52% of the vote), which was later overturned by the California Supreme Court as unconstitutional for its clear discrimination. This decision was the subject of a challenge by private individuals who asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overrule the California Supreme Court decision on this California law. Issuing a decision for or against would have set a precedent of U.S. Supreme Court interference in states’ rights that could have had very dangerous implications.
In short, the state said banning equal marriage was discriminatory. A private party tried to get the feds to overturn that ruling, but the feds stated that they would not interfere with the state’s decision.
Now that we have all of that figured out, what’s next? For California, it’s easy. There seems to be a clear path toward resuming marriages in the state with today’s decision as the state’s courts have repeatedly defended marriage equality. In the twelve other states and D.C. where equal marriage is already recognized, they’ve won federal rights, and it is a time for celebration.
For the other 37 states, though, this is our time. This is when we challenge discrimination through the courts and the ballot box, and where necessary, in the courts of public opinion. Today, we can truly stand and say that anti-equality advocates are on the wrong side of history. Today, it means more than ever to stand up for the rights of all, and to build off the momentum of these decisions. The floodgates are opening and the time is now to advance marriage equality in all 37 remaining states.
Visit Google and search for your state and “marriage ballot initiative.” Many states, such as Arizona and Oregon, already have initiatives on the street. Several others should be launching on the wave of these decisions. Join, donate, collect signatures, spread the word. If there’s a bill on the table for marriage equality in your state, contact your representatives and express your support. Be sure to note that you’re a voter, and be respectful.
We’re on the right side of history, and our time is now.