Monday, January 19, 2015

The Gay Marriage Cases That Quote Loving V. Virginia, 48 Years Later


In 1967, a year before the peaceful Nobel prize-winning Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed, the Supreme Court invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage.  A mixed-race couple named Mildred Jeter, 17, black, married Richard Loving, 23, white.  Due to Virginia’s miscegenation laws forbiding interracial marriage, the Lovings were sentenced to a year in jail.

On the 40th anniversary of the case Loving v. Virginia, Mildred issued a statement supporting gay and lesbian marriage.  Beginning in 2013, it was cited as a precedent in U.S. federal court decisions holding restrictions on same-sex marriage in the United States as unconstitutional.

Same-Sex Marriage Parallel to Loving’s

Loving’s issues are strikingly similar to gay and lesbians who wish same-sex marriages. Do the states have a right to decide if they can marry?  Will the Supreme Court overturn current bans on same-sex marriage and declare that only their court has the power to declare gay marriage for the entire nation?  Will it invalidate state provisions that define marriage as between a man and a woman?

Why The Supreme Court is Getting Involved

In the Sixth Court of Appeals, a decision in November 2014 marked the first and only time a federal appeals court ruled in favor of state bans.  Other appellate courts had found similar bans unconstitutional.  In 2013, the high court struck down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), in a ruling, that key provisions of the 1996 law that banned the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages were unconstitutional. Since then, the U.S. has more than forty lower-court rulings, federal, and state bans that violate the Constitution’s guarantees of due process and equal protections.
However, in the states of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee where there are currently bans on same-sex marriage, fifteen couples have fought the state bans, and have taken their fight all the way to The Supreme Court that is hearing their cases now.  By the end of the Supreme Court’s third term at the end of June, the nation should know if the Supreme Court will rule that the states’ gay marriage bans and others violate the U.S. Constitution.

How The Supreme Court Makes The Decision

The Court has to decide on two issues based on the 14th Amendment.
Does the Constitution require states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples?
Do states have to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere?

What Is At Stake

The fifteen couples all cite their state bans on gay marriage as “demeaning their dignity, imposing countless practical difficulties and inflicting particular harm on their children.”

Societal norms are being redefined. Seventy percent of people now live in a state that has constitutional or statutory marriage. This statistic is nearly double what it was just three months ago.  Gallup’s most recent poll last year showed that 55% of Americans approved of gay marriage, up from 27% in 1996.

End The Debate Once and For All

The outcome of the Supreme Court decision is one of the most important civil-rights decisions in a generation.  If the Supreme Court legalizes nationwide marriage equality, it will end the exclusion and inequality of gays and lesbians in America.

Says superstar attorney of Proposition 8, David Boies, “marriage is a fundamental rights that is protects individual freedom, freedom of expression, a freedom of association, that it’s a basic element of liberty.” The legal director of Lambda Legal, Jon W. Davidson, stated that “we are within sight of the day when same-sex couples across the country will be able to share equally in the joys, protections and responsibilities of marriage.”
Having been treated as second-class citizens, gays and lesbians’ emotional well-being is at stake, just as it was for the Lovings.