by Megan Veith
“[DOMA] 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.”
The news that the Supreme Court officially struck down Section 3 of DOMA today marks a joyful and exciting moment in the history of the LGBT equal rights movement. Despite yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling that gutted the Voting Rights Act and revealed the Court’s continuing denial of the extent of discrimination in the US, the Court took a stand against some of the hatred and intolerance that has been infecting our society. The Windsor ruling includes powerful language and imposes a high legal standard that will be crucial to other equal rights cases in the future. For example, Justice Kennedy, who wrote the opinion for the Court, was explicit in his condemnation of DOMA. He declared that DOMA “imposes a disability … by refusing to acknowledge a status the State finds to be dignified and proper.” He also reiterated the harmful effects of DOMA, not just to same-sex couples who are denied a plethora of federal benefits, but also to the children of same-sex couples, stating that DOMA humiliates them and “makes it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family.” In essence, the Court concluded that DOMA imposed disadvantages and stigmas upon same-sex couples and that this is a direct affront to a State’s right to define marriage.
While many people are thrilled about today’s ruling (and rightly so), we must nonetheless take a critical look at the direct implications of this ruling and how it will take effect. It is important to realize that this ruling only applies to federal benefits and does not require all states to legalize marriage for same-sex couples. A common question people are asking is how this ruling will affect same-sex couples that are legally married in one state, but then move to another state that does not recognize their marriage. As of today, only 13 states and the District of Columbia have extended marriage to same-sex couples. The fight for full equality must continue, state-by-state. However, the Court’s decision is still an important step in ensuring that same-sex couples are not forced into a “second-tier marriage.” Let us hope that the Supreme Court and other courts around the U.S. continue to support equal rights for all people. With strong advocacy and a desire for a change, the time will soon come when all states recognize that love is love, no matter who you are.
Megan Veith is currently a legal intern at Legal Voice. She just finished her second year at Georgetown University Law Center, after graduating with her Bachelor’s Degree at the University of Washington. Megan is a strong advocate for women’s rights and is thrilled at the opportunity to fight for equality for all people at Legal Voice.