A Supreme de­ci­sion on gay mar­riage

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION - — Jonathan Cape­hart

In three ma­jor­ity opin­ions span­ning 12 years, Supreme Court Jus­tice An­thony M. Kennedy gave dig­nity to the lives of les­bians and gay men. His rul­ings re­spected their strug­gle for full in­clu­sion in the Amer­i­can Dream and opened its doors to them. And with each suc­ces­sive de­ci­sion, Kennedy pre­sented the as­pi­ra­tions of gay and les­bian Amer­i­cans not as a claim to spe­cial rights, but to equal rights.

Even more re­mark­able is when those de­ci­sions were handed down. Lawrence v.

Texas, which threw out sodomy laws that crim­i­nal­ized con­sen­sual ho­mo­sex­ual re­la­tions, was de­cided on June 26, 2003.

United States v. Wind­sor, which in­val­i­dated the De­fense of Mar­riage Act, was de­cided on June 26, 2013. When that rul­ing was handed down, same-sex mar­riage was deemed le­gal in just 12 states and the Dis­trict. That num­ber stood at 37 states Fri­day morn­ing. At 10:01 a.m., mar­riage equal­ity swept from sea to shin­ing sea. In his 28-page ma­jor­ity opin­ion in

Oberge­fell v. Hodges, Kennedy made our na­tion more whole, more free, more equal, more just.

“No union is more pro­found than mar­riage, for it em­bod­ies the high­est ideals of love, fi­delity, de­vo­tion, sac­ri­fice, and fam­ily,” Kennedy wrote. “In form­ing a mar­i­tal union, two peo­ple be­come some­thing greater than once they were. As some of the pe­ti­tion­ers in these cases demon­strate, mar­riage em­bod­ies a love that may en­dure even past death. 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.”

Those words are an ex­cla­ma­tion point on the joy rip­pling across the na­tion. The Supreme Court caught up with a na­tion that has sig­naled for years that it sup­ported the right of same-sex cou­ples to marry. A na­tion that has wit­nessed a breath­tak­ing and pos­i­tive sea change in its over­all sup­port for equal pro­tec­tion un­der the law of les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual and trans­gen­der (LGBT) Amer­i­cans. This is not the United States that saw the FBI launch a “sex de­vi­ates” pro­gram in the 1950s to rid the fed­eral gov­ern­ment of gay peo­ple. This is not the United States that saw a fed­eral of­fi­cial de­clare gay men “uniquely nasty.” Thank God.

But work re­mains to be done. Same-sex cou­ples in 28 states can marry on Sun­day and lose their jobs, homes and chil­dren on Mon­day. The Supreme Court de­ci­sion doesn’t ad­dress that. Elim­i­nat­ing the sting of dis­crim­i­na­tion for LGBT Amer­i­cans is the next fight. A fight made more pos­si­ble to win thanks to Fri­day’s land­mark rul­ing. Thanks to Jus­tice Kennedy.

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