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How fitting that the U.S. Supreme Court issued its long-awaited rulings on same-sex marriage as the nation prepares to celebrate its birthday next week. The Fourth of July is a time to celebrate the birth of the nation and how it came to be and how its creators toiled to craft a Declaration of Independence, a Constitution and a Bill of Rights that would protect all of us.
We’re all created equal and we’re all entitled to equal protection, affirmed the justices this week.
The Supremes rolled back the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) 5-4 noting, “The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity,” Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, wrote.
“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,” he continued.
In the case of Proposition 8 in California, which made same-sex marriage illegal after thousands of couples had been married, the Supreme Court ruled that opponents of same-sex marriage had no standing to challenge the lower court ruling that overturned California’s ban.
Societies and mores change and people can recognize 17 years later that DOMA excluded an entire segment of our fellow citizens from enjoying very basic legal rights because they were married to someone of the same sex. That equal protection now extends to my brother and your sister, your best friend, your son, your aunt, your neighbor, your daughter, your niece, your grandson and all people of the same-sex spouses who will now be treated on par with those who have opposite-sex spouses.
To hear these cases argued before the Supreme Court in March was exciting in and of itself because finally, finally opponents and proponents got their day in court. What was remarkable about those hearings was listening to the stories of love and commitment and fairness from proponents and listening to how thin and reedy the opponents sound. It’s hard to argue against fair, even if you try to use religion as a shield.
The nation’s highest court got it right. Happy Fourth of July to everyone – equally!