Wednesday June 26 marked the US Supreme Court’s groundbreaking decision to deem DOMA unconstitutional and strike down California’s Prop 8. Now same-sex married couples in the 12 states that already recognize same-sex marriage, plus California since Prop 8 got the boot, will be granted the same privileges and legal incentives as heterosexual married couples.
By Naima Abdi—
The fall of the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8 stands to be the biggest victory in the fight for marriage equality to date, yet it’s just the first big step in the much larger struggle to root out same-sex discrimination throughout the US. Despite the excitement of today’s events there are still 37 states that do not recognize same-sex marriage and as such won’t be affected by the DOMA ruling whatsoever. While the US Supreme Court just set a framework for future cases that establishes what marriage equality means on the federal level, they in no way said there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage nor did they bolster gay rights.
In a way, this historic day is somewhat bittersweet for all the gay and lesbian couples that are surely overjoyed and inspired by the news but are unable to experience the equality because their states aren’t a part of the SCOTUS decision. Nevertheless, the landmark DOMA ruling that changes the federal government’s definition of marriage does a lot for countless same-sex married couples, by instantly ensuring them with the same federal tax, green card, visas, health and insurance benefits granted to opposite-sex couples. In California however, there’s a legal cleanup that needs to happen in order to get the ball rolling on these changes, and it could take at most 30 days for LGBT couples in the Bear State to either get their marriage license for the first time or have it reinstated.
At the heart of the matter, the reason Prop 8 belly-flopped was because the Governor of California, Jerry Brown (D), refused to defend the statute in court—leaving no defendant in the case made against it by the plaintiffs. On the upside, the Prop 8 ruling has a significant practical effect because Governor Brown has openly declared he’s against Prop 8. Now LGBT couples should not longer have a problem getting a marriage license.
Realistically both decisions say less about the divine right of same-sex marriage but more about the beginning of the real evolution of equality for all in America. And in the wake and celebration of this first leap towards a truly more perfect union, it’s important to use this monumental event to begin the greater dialogue about marriage equality to open doors for a more universal change.