Gay and lesbian couples will finally, once again, be allowed to marry in the state of California. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today it was powerless to rule for or against the constitutionality of Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California, because officials in California failed to mount a defense of the law after it was overturned in an appeals court.
The lower court ruling officially ending Prop 8, therefore, will stand.
With the addition of California as the 13th state to recognize gay marriage, more than 30 percent of the U.S. population now legally sanctions marriage equality.
In addition, thanks to a separate Supreme Court decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), those marriages will, for the first time ever, be binding in the eyes of the federal government.
Signed into law in 1996 by President Bill Clinton, DOMA barred the federal government from recognizing gay marriages legally performed on a state level. The ruling striking down DOMA will now allow gay and lesbian married couples to enjoy many of the same federal rights as their married heterosexual counterparts—including being allowed to file jointly on tax returns.
San Diego LGBT Weekly publisher Stampp Corbin, who served as co-chair of the National LGBT Leadership Council during Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, tells TakePart that today’s court rulings represent a major victory for the marriage equality movement.
“Obviously the repeal of DOMA is wonderful for those folks in the 13 states and D.C. that allow marriage. Those folks will have the ability to have the exact same rights and benefits that other married couples enjoy in those states. That is wonderful and fantastic.”
However, argues Corbin, the Supreme Court’s rulings today open almost as many questions as they appear to answer. The battle for marriage equality is far from over.
“The Supreme Court kicked the national decision on gay marriage down the road,” he says. “If they had taken the [Prop 8] case, they would have needed a broader Roe v. Wade type of ruling that would have either guaranteed marriage equality or ended it.”
Active military members in states with gay marriage now should be allowed to have their families live on base. But what should happen if they are transferred to a state that doesn’t have gay marriage?
Because of that Prop 8 punt, several major issues will need to be resolved in the coming years. What happens, for instance, when a couple legally married in California, moves to a state like Nevada, which does not recognize marriage equality?
“I have federal benefits in California, but do I suddenly lose them when I move to Nevada, which doesn’t recognize marriage equality?” asks Corbin. “Those are the kinds of questions that will need to be sorted out as we move forward.”
Likewise, active military members in states with gay marriage now should be allowed to enjoy the same federal benefits as their heterosexual counterparts—having their families live on base, for instance. But what should happen if they are transferred to a state that doesn’t have gay marriage? Will their family be torn apart?
“The legal fight over these issues probably started today,” says Corbin. “I can almost guarantee someone [in the military] filed.”
That all said, Corbin believes the LGBT community should be thrilled with the twin decisions, and that the court handled the task in front of it extremely diplomatically.
“Everyone got something today,” says Corbin. “The Supreme Court got something by not making a Plessy vs. Fergusson decision that future generations would see as codifying discrimination. The conservative movement is not happy with the decisions, but they can breathe a sigh of relief that every state [is not required to] recognize gay marriage. So everybody got something today.
“But we [the gay rights movement] got the most.”
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