The U.S. Supreme Court is taking up same sex marriage again, and this decision will be big. In late April, the Supreme Court will hear arguments from couples in 4 states —Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee and Kentucky— on one side, and representatives of those 4 states on the other. The judges will have until June to write their opinions, and if best guesses are correct, same-sex marriage bans will be ruled unconstitutional across the country. Let’s step back to explore what led the Supreme Court Justices back into the fray.
The tide of American history has once more turned decidedly in favor of social justice. The sweeping advance of marriage equality in recent years is breathtaking. In 37 states, same sex partners now have the right to marry. About 72% of the U.S. population lives in a state where marriage equality is protected by law. Americans in increasing numbers think equal rights for LGBT persons are simply a no-brainer. Nationally prominent politicians of both parties are accepting or supportive of marriage equality. It’s been a transformative decade brought about by the tremendously hard work of thousands of activists, millions of citizens, countless judges, civil servants and religious leaders.
But there are still setbacks. One of the most recent has propelled the Justices to act. The Economist reported in January:
A Sixth Circuit Court decision upholding four state bans on gay nuptials in November is what nudged the Justices to jump in. Four earlier circuit court decisions had gone the other way, knocking down gay marriage bans on the basis of U.S. v Windsor, a 2013 case in which the Supremes invalidated the core of Bill Clinton's Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which barred the federal government from recognizing gay wedlock. Judge Jeffrey Sutton’s ruling at the Sixth read Windsor differently, and created a split that only the Supremes can resolve.
The Supreme Court can’t have different appeals courts interpreting their rulings in diametrically different ways. This forthcoming case will inevitably strip the ambiguity away. Are state bans of same sex marriages unconstitutional? We’ll find out in June. Most marriage equality advocates are feeling very positive. By this summer, the U.S. could join the ranks of 18 other countries where freedom to marry is available to ALL citizens.
At Ben & Jerry’s, we’ll be ready to cheer such an event from coast to coast. To keep the momentum going, we encourage you to sign on to The People’s Brief. A project of the Human Rights Campaign and Roberta Kaplan, the acclaimed civil rights attorney, the People’s Brief provides a chance for Americans from across the country to be heard by all 9 justices of the court. Review the document that the Supreme Court will consider, and add your name by visiting The People’s Brief website.