Tide turning on same-sex marriagePublished 5:28pm Wednesday, July 3, 2013
June 26 was a good day, and an historic one, for marriage equality regardless of sexual orientation.
A 5-4 Supreme Court struck down a provision of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) barring federal recognition of same-sex marriage.
And it let stand a lower court ruling invalidating California’s Proposition 8 ban of such unions in 2008.
A secular government cannot grant marriage rights to some, but exclude others.
Same-sex marriage enjoys majority support among Americans as the cultural tide shifts decisively and rapidly.
Strongest supporters are people younger than 30.
June 20 we published a front-page story about two Grand Rapids men united in a Pokagon Band ceremony near Dowagiac.
We weren’t sure what reaction to expect, but it received 50 “likes.”
Invalidating DOMA insures that all legally married people will be treated equally by the federal government, with the same tax breaks and Social Security survivor benefits.
These landmark rulings thread their way cautiously through a minefield of policy issues and challenges to established law unimaginable not long ago.
Many religious traditions consider such unions an affront, though the First Amendment guards places of worship from being compelled to conduct same-sex marriages.
The DOMA verdict doesn’t tell states they have to allow same-sex marriage.
The court, resisting an aggressive stance on the issue, respects the right of states to legislate on marriage. State laws govern whether same-sex couples may wed.
With DOMA, they got inferior treatment compared to heterosexual couples.
Same-sex married couples were not allowed to file federal tax returns jointly.
Same-sex veterans joined in matrimony were not entitled to burial together in military cemeteries.
Second-class treatment of these couples could not be reconciled with constitutional equality principles. In states that allow such unions, the federal government is duty-bound to treat those marriages as it treats others.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, author of the majority DOMA opinion, concluded denying recognition of same-sex marriage was unconstitutional because those couples were deprived of “the equal liberty of persons” under the Fifth Amendment.
Societal shifts are reflected in our political discourse. President Obama is the first supportive sitting president, joined by such prominent conservatives as former Vice President Dick Cheney, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and former Bush Solicitor General Ted Olson, who argued the constitutionality of same-sex marriage to the court.
The opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the editorial board.