As I’m sure you’ve seen all over social media via the overuse of a red equality sign and the hashtag “#LoveIsLove” this morning, the Supreme Court ruled on the heavily anticipated cases of Hollingsworth vs. Perry and United States vs. Windsor. The rulings killed a couple of Republican grandparents, but the rest of us are quite pleased. The details were a little tricky to understand, so I’ve tried to decode it.
83-year-old New York widow Edith Windsor was to pay $360,000 in taxes when her partner Thea Spyer passed away, because of the restrictions the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) had previously set on same-sex marriages, namely that only the state government and not the national government could recognize and provide legal benefits to same-sex couples. Her case went to the Supreme Court, who ruled 5-4 in her favor, striking down DOMA. Overturning it provides that all married couples, regardless of sexual orientation, will be granted the same federal benefits. Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, concluding the following:
“DOMA singles out a class of persons deemed by a State entitled to recognition and protection to enhance their own liberty. It imposes a disability on the class by refusing to acknowledge a status the State finds to be dignified and proper. DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others. The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.”
The case of Hollingsworth vs. Perry tackled Proposition 8, the banning of gay marriage by California. Gay couple Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier were denied their marriage license in California when Prop 8 was passed, after same-sex marriage had previously been legalized. They sued and won in the lower courts — Proposition 8 was deemed unconstitutional and gay marriage was to be re-legalized. Supporters of Proposition 8 (the people who believed gay marriage should NOT be legal) appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, who, in another 5-4 vote, deferred back to the state, upholding their decision that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional. Many civil rights activists hoped that the Supreme Court would use this case to set a national precedent, but the justices declined to rule on a national level.
In summary, the fight for marriage equality stands as follows:
- DOMA was struck down, granting all legally recognized marriages EQUAL rights by the federal government.
- No ruling has been made whether a same-sex couple’s marriage is recognized from one state to the next, or whether the federal government will grant benefits based on the state the couple was married in or the state they live in.
- Proposition 8 was overturned in California, by the lower courts, a decision the Supreme Court upheld, meaning California is one of 13 states (plus the District of Columbia) where gay marriage is legal.
- Allowing same-sex couples to marry is still a decision left to the states.
This is a huge victory for civil rights activists and girls with bitchy GBFs everywhere. Certainly the fight will continue until equal marriage rights are granted for all, but for now, it’s one small step for gay man, and one giant sashay for mankind.
Also, who knew that if you search “gay” on Google, you get a rainbow?
Image via LA Times