In a landmark 5-4 decision Friday, same-sex marriage became a legal constitutional right for all citizens in the United States of America. This ruling has been a source of intense debate and political action since 2008 when Proposition 8 passed, banning same-sex marriage in the State of California. Though this is a time for celebration, this decision must be kept in perspective.
All of the Court’s liberal justices voted favor of the decision. This includes Justices Anthony Kennedy (who wrote the majority opinion), Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. The four conservative justices voted as expected.
Justice Kennedy had this to say in today’s opinion.
“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family…In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.”
Speaking about same-sex couples who challenged the Court on unconstitutional marriage laws, Justice Kennedy continued.
“It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
While this is a major victory for human rights in this country, it remains to be seen if this declaration by the Supreme Court impacts how trans* folks, especially those of color, are treated in public spaces. Trans Women of Color Collective leader Lourdes Ashley Hunter reacted on her Facebook page this morning with thoughtful critiques of the political systems which support same-sex marriage but still work to oppress poor, Black, and trans* persons across this country.
This is definitely a moment to celebrate. But, we must also consider how this validation of marriage rights pertains to a very specific group of people. It is not a cure-all. It won’t end all inequality faced by folks who identify as LGBTQIA. It is just a small step toward validation, empowerment, and humanity for those who desire same-sex marriage. We still have work to do.
Photo credit: Flickr/Suzette Franck