Lesbians and gay men across the country, joined by a majority of Americans, are celebrating the historic June 26, 2013 decisions by the Supreme Court of the United States scuttling DOMA and sending Prop 8 back to the 9th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals. On Friday, June 28, the 9th Circuit Court immediately lifted the injunction against same-sex marriage and the two couples who spearheaded the fight against Prop 8 were legally married.
Undeniably, America has moved closer to recognizing equality under the law for lesbians and gay men. Unfortunately, there still exists, within the national framework of access to same-sex marriage, legal unfairness, inequality and downright silliness for couples in same-sex versus opposite-sex marriages. This “half a loaf is better than none” Supreme Court decision has angered many in the LGBT community which forces us to accept status as second-class citizens.
And, we know that same-sex marriage is not settled. Thirteen states allowing marriage equality does not rise to the “equality level” demanded by the United States Constitution. The 14th amendment “requires each state to provide equal protection under the law to all people within its jurisdiction.” Despite DOMA being declared unconstitutional, federal benefits may not flow to same-sex married couples who move to states which do not recognize gay marriage. Additionally, other laws to fully enfranchise the LGBT community, including the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), have languished for years in Congress. This coming week, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas) is introducing a bill to amend the U. S. Constitution to stop same-sex marriage
Further, it’s impossible to fully enjoy this move towards equality when just days earlier Supreme Court removed the heart of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. That 5-to-4 vote will now allow nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without advance federal approval. Dissenter Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg cited Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by saying, “his legacy had been disserved by today’s decision.” Prophetically, the right-wing’s multi-decade war against “activist judges” has come full circle making conservatives the brunt of Pogo’s Walt Kelley’s famous quote, "We have met the enemy and he is us."
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the majority in the gutting of voting rights, exclaimed, “While any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.” Oh, really, Mr. Chief Justice? This is akin to the Supreme Court saying that all HIV drugs, which have effectively ended the automatic death sentence for those infected with HIV, can no longer be made or distributed. Your reasoning Mr. Chief Justice? The condition of those with HIV has improved so much by the use of these drugs, we must stop the drug therapy and reassess how to deal with HIV based on the improved current conditions. Huh?
Meanwhile, in Texas, an anti-abortion bill, which, according to The Austin American-Statesman, “threatened to close nearly all of the abortion clinics in the state,” was singlehandedly and successfully filibustered by Democratic State Sen. Wendy Davis. Unfortunately, it was a short-lived victory as Texas Governor Rick Perry called the lawmakers into a second special session in order to specifically pass the widespread abortion restrictions contained in the bill. Senator Davis faced down a Republican governor and a gerrymandered Republican legislature who were bent on forging their religious values into state law.
Since 1973, organized religion has been leading the fight to overturn Roe v. Wade. To raise money and enflame passions, the religious folk call those fighting for women’s health rights “baby murderers.” And, similarly, there’s no doubt that in California, Prop 8 was passed due to the efforts of Christian Evangelicals and the Catholic and Mormon churches. The religious folks demonized lesbians and gay men by calling them child molesters while saying that same-sex marriage would be taught to five-year-olds.
Some of America’s religious folk are determined to make their religious and moral values the law of the land. In our great country, people may join whatever church they wish and follow the precepts of their religion. No one has the right to force those religious values onto others through legislation.
The fight to advance and protect voting rights, civil rights, women's rights, women’s health and the right to choose, immigration rights, and lgbt rights, is intensifying.
Now the work begins - together.
Sunday, 30 June 2013