Thursday, July 2, 2015

Thank You Supreme Court

by Nani Lawrence, Writing Intern

The court ruling on June 26th holds great implications for the LGBT community.  Opponents of the decision argue that justices “rewrote” the law. Actually, they tailored the 14th Amendment to protect all citizens. The text of the due process clause, section 1—the language of which establishes same-sex marriage as a right--follows:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. 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; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

In past cases, the Supreme Court ruled that the right to marry fell under personal liberty. Namely, coincidentally, in Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court case that prohibited restrictions on interracial marriages.

So, conservatives can whine, but the Court had every right to rule in the way they did. Also, the text in the Constitution in which “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion….” The words “separation of church and state” do not appear in the Establishment Clause, but do appear in several letters penned by the Founding Fathers. Because apparently it wasn’t obvious. Bans on same-sex marriage based on religious beliefs simply do not hold water.

The struggle for LGBT rights, in this country, has spanned for, in total, almost a century. Henry Gerber established the first American organization in Chicago in 1924.  According to the Public Broadcasting Station, it disbanded shortly after due to political pressure.

As many people know, the modern movement for LGBT rights began with the Stonewall riots in 1969. Back then, according to Britannica, a ban existed on the “solicitation of homosexual acts.” In the wee morning hours of June 28th, the NYPD conducted a raid on the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. The patrons of this particular bar fought back against the department’s assault on their right to exist openly. These events—a total of five days of rioting—sparked political activism on behalf of the LGBT community, and ushered in an era of “impolitely” demanding equality.

The Supreme Court heard five LGBT rights cases prior to the recent case legalizing marriage equality, Obergefell et al v. Hodges. Of those five cases, three really paved the way in setting important precedence for a big LGBT victory.

 In the 1996 case Romer v. Evans, the Court established homosexuals as a protected class based on their vulnerability to discrimination.  In Lawrence v. Texas, the Court established that the illegality of sexual acts between two consenting same-sex—NOT opposite sex--adults in their own home violated the Due Process Clause of the 5th and 14th Amendments.

Also in 1996, former president Bill Clinton signed into law the Defense of Marriage Act. The section of the act at issue affirmed that only one man and one woman constituted a married couple, and only a member of the opposite sex constituted a spouse.

The challenge to this law reached the Court a decade after Lawrence. Thea Spyer and Edie Windsor married in Ontario in 2007, about 40 years after they entered a relationship. Spyer died two years later, and she had left her estate to Windsor. The federal government did not recognize their marriage under DOMA. Exactly two years before Obergefell, the Court decided “DOMA seeks to injure the very class New York seeks to protect,” which was established in Romer v. Evans and overturned in section three of DOMA. Freedomtomarry.org lists 65 marriage equality victories in the lower courts since Windsor v. United States.

Backlash against the ruling came swiftly. So far, several states have vowed to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples, including Texas.

Beyond that setback, so many issues still exist for the LGBT community to confront. Snopes confirms that 19 states lack statewide protection for LGBT employees. Many states have “bathroom bills” in which trans individuals would not have access to bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity. Public businesses turn away LGBT individuals due to “religious freedom.” Same-sex couples face unnecessary obstacles when trying to help relieve the burden on this country’s foster care system.

The LGBT community scored a major victory with Obergefell. Now is definitely a time for celebration. But there is so much yet to be done. Let this win be motivation to continue the fight.

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