The U.S. Supreme Court last week announced that it would take up 83-year-old Edie Windsor’s challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, which bans the federal government from recognizing same-sex unions. The court also announced that day that it would consider hearing a challenge to Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage.
The Prop. 8 case has the potential to restore marriage equality to the nation’s most populous state, and could conceivably include an affirmation from the justices that gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry — a pronouncement that will forever change the game for marriage equality. Likewise, there are a range of possible outcomes for the DOMA case — including the court nullifying the law and allowing married gays and lesbians access to federal benefits like survivors’ rights, Social Security and joint tax filings, as well as the potential for the equalization of immigration laws.
So the stakes are high — enormously high.
There appears to be little LGBT and ally Americans can do in the next six months but wait for the nine justices to fall on either side of the marriage line.
However, progress can still be made at the local and state levels for LGBT rights. Nondiscrimination laws can be pushed forward, measures that seek to restrict rights can be fought against and efforts can be undertaken to expand the number of states that will sanction same-sex marriage to beyond the current nine and Washington, D.C.
Societal evolution may or may not play a role in how the justices come to the Prop. 8 and DOMA decisions. But the world can’t stop moving forward as the court considers these issues. Whether or not the justices side with LGBT rights, activists need to keep up their fight before, during and after the decisions.
One person who could play an integral role in the outcome of the rulings is President Barack Obama.
Again, the justices are not supposed to be influenced by party politics. However, having amicus briefs filed in these cases by the Obama administration — with a strong emphasis on the inherent right of gays and lesbians to marry — would be a strong indicator to the justices that the country, with the full might of the federal government, is and should be heading in this direction.
This community turned out in force for the president last month, and we can only hope that his administration stands by its promises to work for equal rights for all Americans in its second term.