June 26, 2013, will be recalled as a monumental turning point for equal liberty and dignity for some, and as a date which will live in infamy for others.
The pair of controversial decisions regarding same-sex marriage issued by the Supreme Court of the United States marked a final victory in the battle for equality for same-sex couples, but signified only a modest triumph in the war for universal freedom.
For many opponents of same-sex marriage, however, the decisions were perceived as devastating rulings that are both morally offensive and historically unsubstantiated. What those in opposition to same-sex marriage apparently fail to appreciate is the undeniable fact that federal laws were treating one set of American citizens as inferior humans -- and something simply had to be done to remedy that injustice.
By addressing and correcting those issues of basic fairness and civil rights, the Supreme Court in no way impacted or harmed foes of same-sex marriage. Even after these decisions, it is important to remember that those who oppose marriage equality still have a right to marry someone of the opposite sex -- and to oppose same-sex marriage for themselves and their families, fight to ensure their houses of worship don't perform same-sex marriages, and encourage others to also decline same-sex marriages.
In United States v. Windsor, the Court held that a key provision of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act "violates basic due process and equal protection principles," according to Justice Anthony Kennedy. Writing for the majority, Kennedy declared that DOMA's "principal effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal" and the law's "principal purpose is to impose inequality."
The Court's DOMA decision has far-reaching consequences. Beyond the estate tax fairness issues at the heart of the Windsor case, the verdict will ensure that 1,100 federal provisions available to married opposite-sex couples are applied equally to lawfully married same-sex couples. That includes Social Security benefits, tax returns, veterans' benefits, health coverage and housing rights.
In a more limited decision, the Court struck down Proposition 8, the California voter initiative banning gay marriage. As a result, same-sex marriage is again legal in California.
The restrained Prop. 8 verdict means that same-sex marriage isn't the law of the land, and won't be any time soon. Marriage equality will be won over time on a state-by-state basis.
That fight for same-sex marriage rights is actually a fight for liberty; a fight for the principle that if a right guaranteed by the government is accessible to certain consenting adults, that right should be available to all consenting adults.
Despite the opposition from those who believe their own morals should trump the rights and liberties desired by others, marriage equality will one day be the law of the land in every state. Why? Because when Americans hunger for the right to live the life they choose, and if doing so will do nothing to prevent others from living their lives as they wish, liberty will win. It always has.
And if liberty continues to win, government will increasingly have less and less to do with marriage until, one day, such discussions about marriage will be eliminated from court houses and capitol buildings and occur, instead, where they belong: over dinner tables and at water coolors; in churches, synagogues, mosques and temples; and, most importantly, between couples who love one another.
May there one day be so much freedom that we each can choose to engage in marriage, not as a government contract, but as a solemn promise of love and devotion guided by whatever religious convictions or moral beliefs we each have in our own hearts.
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