Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage
The highest court in the United Stated ruled in favor of same-sex marriage today.
In a 5 – 4 ruling, the highest court in the land ruled the 14th amendment requires states to recognize same-sex marriage in all 50 states.
“The history of marriage is one of both continuity and change,” reads the opening lines of 100+ page opinion released along side today’s announcement. “Changes, such as the decline of arranged marriages and the abandonment of the law of coverture, have worked deep transformations in the structure of marriage, affecting aspects of marriage once viewed as essential.”
Cases like Virginia v. Loving, which decided interracial marriage here in the Commonwealth, and 1986′s Bowers v. Hardwick which made homosexual acts illegal (later overturned by Lawrence V. Texas in 2003) were cited as case examples for the nation’s change in heart on the issue of same-sex marriage.
“Decisions about marriage are among the most intimate that an individual can make,” the opinion reads. “This is true for all persons, whatever their sexual orientation.”
This argument over the changing form of marriage seems to be what sealed the deal for same-sex couples.
The opinion pulls no punches when making comparisons between heterosexual and homosexual marriages, admitting the unions are built by the states which “contributed to the fundamental character of marriage by placing it at the center of many facets of the legal and social order.”
“There is no difference between same- and opposite-sex couples with respect to this principle, yet same-sex couples are denied the constellation of benefits that the States have linked to marriage and are consigned to an instability many opposite-sex couples would find intolerable.”
“It is demeaning to lock same-sex couples out of a central institution of the Nation’s society,” reads the opinion. “For they too may aspire to the transcendent purposes of marriage.”
Details are still coming in, but a notice from the Supreme Court’s Blog has announced the ruling after hearing the case on April 28, 2015.
Same-sex marriage has been legal in Virginia since October 6, 2014, when a federal judge struck down the state’s ban. Virginia’s ban was put in place by popular vote and signed into the state’s constitution as the Marshall Newman Amendment back in 2006 by now disgraced Governor Bob McDonnell.
As many as 124,000 LGBTQ couples have wed nationwide since the unions first began in 2004 when Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to legalize the act. Had the Supreme Court ruled against same-sex marriage, legal same-sex unions here in Virginia and around the country would have been made void.
Many were unsure if the issue of gay marriage would even hit the high court as almost every challenge in the country was met with support under the 14th Amendment, or equal protection clause, which demands equal rights and access to services under the law.
“No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” – 14th Amendment
But in November of last year, a Sixth Circuit Judge became first to pass a ruling upholding bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. Conservatives had called for the Supreme Court to hear the ban, but it wasn’t possible until a lower court had a divisive ruling.
Support for same-sex marriage across the US is at its highest levels ever. According to a June 2015 Pew Poll, a 57 percent majority of Americans now favor allowing same-sex marriage, and 39 percent oppose.
The survey, conducted May 12-18 among 2,002 adults, found partisans are as divided as ever on this issue: Today, 65 percent of Democrats and an identical percentage of independents favor gay marriage; only about a third (34 percent) of Republicans do so.
Growing shares of all three groups support same-sex marriage, yet the differences between Democrats and Republicans are as wide today as they were a decade ago.
Thousands had descended upon Washington D.C. ahead of the April SCOUTS hearing, with those supporting and opposing left screaming on the Court house steps.
Among those in attendance opposing same-sex marriage was self-admitted child molester and Christian Activist Josh Duggar (pictured below).
“Every child deserves a mother and a father” said Duggar, who gained fame as part of the TLC show ’19 and Counting.’ This message of two different sex parents was echoed by many lawyers when arguing in court supporting the bans.
Though Virginia’s case wasn’t on the SCOTUS Docket in April, the Commonwealth’s Attorney General Mark Herring (pictured middle below) was in the room for the hearing.
He spoke with GayRVA just moments after leaving the court room.
While Herring said it wasn’t a great idea to read too much into the Justice’s questions and comments, he said he noticed a few points which might show support for LGBTQ marraiges.
“The chief justice [Roberts] speculated that the case could be decided on ‘equal protection’ grounds as gender discrimination,” said Herring. “Which would indicated the state would have a really tough burden to overcome in trying to get marriage bans upheld.”
The equal protection clause has been the winning argument against same-sex marriage bans around the nation, leading to 36 states striking their bans ahead of today’s ruling.
Herring said most of the arguments used against same-sex marriage in the SCOTUS hearing relied on things like gay couples can’t birth children or their families are inferior because they lack different sex parents.
“I thought the solicitor general’s closing was really strong,” said Herring about the rebuttal to the child rearing argument. “He said [it was] ‘untenable,’ he underscored untenable, to leave same-sex couples and their families as second class citizens.”
Same-sex marriage had seemed lightyears away to most activist and LGBTQ folks until Sept. 2013 when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Eddie Windsor vs. the US, and struck down both California’s ban on same-sex marriage, Prop 8, and parts of the federal ban on same-sex marriage, known as the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
Windsor, 84, was the significant plaintiff of DOMA’s case. According to CNN, after her wife’s death in 2009, Windsor “was forced to assume an estate tax bill much larger than those that other married couples would have to pay.”
Because DOMA defined marriage as between a man and a woman, same-sex couples like Windsor and her spouse were not given federal benefits such as Social Security and medical leave. “The whole design of [DOMA] was to discriminate and punish a certain set of people,” said Michael Hamar shortly after the Windsor ruling, a Norfolk-based Attorney with a history of covering LGBT issues.
In a 5-4 ruling, the Court said DOMA was unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment. As said on CNN, now “same-sex spouses legally married in a state may receive federal benefits.”
Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was appointed by the Republican president Ronald Reagan, was the swing vote in favor of striking DOMA.
Since then, 85 law suits have been filed in 28 states all aiming to strike state-level bands.
This is a continuing story and updates will be coming in as the day progresses.
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