June 2015 will go down in the books as one of the most monumental Pride Months in American history. After hearing the Obergefell v. Hodges case, five of the nine Supreme Court Justices determined on June 26 that the 14th Amendment of the Constitution encompasses a national right to same-sex marriage. Previously, the 14th Amendment, which addresses the rights of citizens and the equal protection of all under the law, was instrumental in crucial equal rights cases, including Brown v. Board of Education (racial discrimination), Roe v. Wade (reproductive rights) and Reed v. Reed (gender discrimination). Once again, it has ushered in a new wave of equal rights legislation, with this monumental Supreme Court decision on marriage equality.
In the past years, gay rights have become a high priority issue, compared by some to the civil rights activism of the mid 1900s. Massachusetts became the first state to legalize gay marriage in May 2004 and in 2013, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was deemed unconstitutional, thus granting federal benefits to same-sex couples legally married in states that recognized gay marriage.
With the Obergefell decision, the United States becomes the 21st country to recognize same sex marriage. Prior to the Supreme Court decision, a total of 36 states permitted gay couples to get married, making it a viable option for approximately 70% of the US population. The June 26th ruling means that marriage bans must end in the remaining 14 states — Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.
Despite the majority of states having legalized same-sex marriage, the issue remained highly controversial, prompting the Supreme Court to settle the matter once and for all on a national scale. Proponents for gay marriage believe that it greatly benefits gay lives (their families, community, children etc.) without hurting or impacting heterosexuals, that same sex couples should be allowed the same rights and benefits as heterosexual couples, and that same-sex couples’ right to marriage is theoretically protected under constitutional commitments to liberty and equality. Critics argue that it goes against the traditional definition of marriage as between a man and woman (thus undermining the institution of marriage), that allowing gay marriage starts a slippery slope to other “non-traditional” also undesirable relationships like polygamy, that gay marriage will destroy the heterosexual community through an influx of socially equal gays, that gay marriage creates a home environment not suitable for children who need both a mom and dad, that it’s against the beliefs of many religions, and that it further removes marriage from its purpose of procreation.
The decision for marriage equality is likely the most awaited of a series of recent SCOTUS rulings. Prior to the decision on the Obergefell v. Hodges case, the Supreme Court ruled that certain subsidies in the Affordable Care Act (more commonly known as Obamacare) were allowed not only for state-run insurance exchanges but also for those operated by the federal government. In the Supreme Courts third ruling in relation to Obamacare within three years, chief justice John Roberts wrote in support of the majority, that “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them. If at all possible, we must interpret the act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter.” That same day, the Supreme Court also ruled on housing discrimination, voting 5-4 to broaden the types of claims allowed under the Fair Housing Act. Coupled with the Obergefell decision, this Supreme Court ruling represents a major triumph in the fight for equality.
As is the case with most notable events these days, social media erupted once news of the Obergefell decision broke. Snapchat added two geotags (one of a rainbow-striped equal sign and another with the words Making History) as well as a Marriage Equality Snapstory, #LoveisLove and #LoveWins were trending on Twitter, Instagram announced their rainbow-emoji themed weekend hashtag project (#WHP) and Facebook was filled with rainbow-tinted profile pictures created with facebook.com/celebratepride.
After the decision, President Obama also took to Twitter to express his support, and later in his oral remarks lauded the ruling as having “made our union a little more perfect.” He added that it “gives us hope that on many issues with which we grapple, real change is possible. A shift of hearts and minds is possible.” These comments serves as a reminder that, though we celebrate today the immense progress that has been made and the many lives that have been changed for the better, the many new couples now free to spend their lives legally married to the ones they love, the march toward equality is not yet over.