The Supreme Court’s decisions on two marriage equality cases became historic Wednesday, but baby steps aren’t enough when civil rights are being ignored.
With a decision of 5-4 for United States v. Windsor, the Supreme Court deemed the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional under the Fifth Amendment. This is just short of 20 years after President Bill Clinton signed it in 1996.
“DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others,” wrote Justice Anthony M. Kennedy for the majority.
This is too true, but not just socially. Heterosexual married couples receive more than 1,000 federal benefits that same-sex couples don’t, even after they are legally married, according to GLAAD.
That is the most important part: getting the federal benefits. Yes, it would be amazing if this helped lessen a social stigma, but now married same-sex couples can get more of the marital benefits they deserve, such as hospital visitation rights.
No longer do they need to worry about not being able to be at the side of their badly injured spouse in the hospital. The couples finally will get that right, as morbid as it can be.
Still, the decision stopped short of marriage equality being a constitutional right.
In the second announcement of the day, the Supreme Court continued to skirt away from that answer.
In Hollingsworth v. Perry, the 5-4 decision truly wasn’t based on the topic of marriage equality. It was about whether the supporters of Proposition 8 — California’s same-sex marriage ban — had the right to defend it even after the governor and attorney general declined to do so.
“We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts for the majority. “We decline to do so for the first time here.”
While the decision says California should dismiss the defense and thus insure same-sex marriage is legal once again, it has no legal affect on any other state.
So, the Supreme Court passed up an opportunity to make an actual decision on same-sex marriage.
“What a shame” doesn’t even cover it.
Yes, victories have been achieved. Yes, this could motivate states to pass same-sex marriage — to make it so more than just 30 percent of Americans live with marriage equality, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Yes, it’s worth celebrating. These were huge decisions.
But it’s not enough. The Supreme Court failed to take the opportunity to decide if marriage equality was a constitutional right.
That’s why, with the victories fresh, people must continue to push — harder still – to show small movements aren’t tolerated.
This cannot be the end. Even more, marriage equality cannot be seen as the only fight for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community.
When you take issues to the spotlight one at a time, you risk leaving behind many important fights.
You risk becoming too satisfied with the victory of a single fight and stop trying to win the war.
Ashley Dye is a senior journalism and telecommunications major and writes ‘The Dyessertation’ for the Daily News. Her views do not necessarily reflect those of the paper or The Daily. Write to Ashley at email@example.com