Today, June 26, 2013 is a landmark day for marriage equality, as the Supreme Court has ruled the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which stated that only opposite-sex marriages could be federally recognized, is unconstitutional.
The three main arguments that pro-marriage equality advocates would point to prior to today’s Supreme Court ruling to showcase the inequality of DOMA were: (1) portability of marriages only recognized in one state but not another, (2) the “second-tier status” this held gay couples at by not granting them equal rights under the law, and (3) the denial of the thousand-plus federal rights and tax benefits opposite-sex couples could enjoy.
So, where does today’s ruling leave us?
What this means is that in the 13 states (thanks to today’s Prop 8 decision, California can be added) that currently grant marriage equality to same-sex couples will be held in the same manner as opposite-sex marriages in the eyes of the federal government. It does not, however, mandate that states which currently do not grant equal protection and recognition to gay couples do so nor does it force any penalty upon them for not.
Has portability been nullified in the federal sense by acknowledging the dozen states that currently recognize same-sex marriage the same as their straight counterparts? Today’s decision does not make other states recognize same-sex marriages in their states. So, portability is still an issue in the 38 states that do not grant same-sex marriage equality currently.
The “second-tier status” is no longer a federal issue…in the dozen states that do legalize gay marriage, but remains a problem in states that do not. It may however be the first step in the process that does.
The federal tax filing denial should no longer remain an issue, as today’s ruling stated that this only grants federal benefits to states that now and will later recognize gay marriages in their state borders.
While today’s Court ruling remains monumental, there remains work to be done. It is another step in progress, along with the President himself “coming out” in favor of marriage equality and the repeal of another antiquated Clinton-era social relic, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, it is a great bound that may propel equality further and faster having done it. Portability and second-class citizen recognition remain marriage equality issues despite today’s verdict.
However, yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling striking down important sections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a key component of the civil rights struggle, must also be acknowledged for the potential discrimination this has already begun, with Texas immediately throwing together a Voter I.D. Law, and could reveal, in addition to the many who died innocently and in protest for that this sullies.
Many are reminded today of the famous quote spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice”.
While today’s DOMA decision brings us a step forward in progress, we must also be wary of the VRA repeals and their like that stumble us two steps back.