LGBT Community Rejoices in New Victory
A little over a month ago, most American Facebook and Twitter feeds were bursting at the seams with posts ranging from enraged to overjoyed belief. The reason for all the commotion lies within the events of June 26, 2013, which marked the decision of perhaps one of the most followed Supreme Court cases since Roe v. Wade. United States v. Windsor finally brought the ever controversial Defense of Marriage Act before the Supreme Court and the homosexual community was both shocked and amazed to find out that the Court ruled in their favor.
Although the ruling was a victory, same-sex marriage is still not legal across the entire United States. The decision of whether marriage is defined as the legal binding of two people who love each other or as one man and one woman who love each other is still up to the individual states. To understand what rights have been granted to gay and lesbian couples, we must first understand the nature of United States v. Windsor.
United States v. Windsor concerns Edie Windsor, who sued the US Government when she was forced to pay $363,053 in estate tax after she survived her partner of 30 years, Thea Spyer. Windsor and Spyer married in 2007 in Canada; two years prior to Spyer’s death in 2009. Windsor claimed that she would not have been subjected to any such estate tax (much less one in such a high amount) if she had been the late Spyer’s male husband. In a narrow 5-4 vote victory by the justices, the Supreme Court declared Windsor was right and that the Defense of Marriage Act needed some serious editing.
However, let me be clear as clear as possible when I say that gay marriage is not yet legal in the United States. The Supreme Court’s decision states that if a same-sex couple is legally married in a state such as New York, all federal rights that are guaranteed to opposite-sex couples are also guaranteed to the same-sex couple. The Court has not yet declared whether the rights guaranteed to same-sex couples in the state where their marriage took place will carry over into other states that have not yet recognized same-sex marriage. In short, if two men get married in New York and then move to Florida, which defines marriage as a civil union between a man and a woman, the rights guaranteed to that couple in New York may no longer apply.
While US v. Windsor is a tremendous triumph for supporters of same-sex marriage all over the country, the LGBT community still has a very long uphill battle left, as they still have the daunting task of convincing 37 more states to step up and legalize gay marriage. Among these states are Alabama, South Carolina and Texas, which seen very far from budging on the issue.
On the positive side, those states which have already granted their homosexual citizens the right to marry must also offer to them the same rights given to all married people. Considering how split the Supreme Court was on the issue; there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that this is the civil rights issue of our generation and the nation is both deeply divided and confused about the issue. While for now, same-sex couples and their supporters can take pride in their enormous step forward, there is still a lot of ground to be covered by the LGBT community and they cannot afford to take a break, because their opposition certainly isn’t.