Utah LGBT advocates hailed the United States Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling today that The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which barred the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage, was unconstitutional. It's a decision advocates see as a turning point in American society.
In response to the court’s decision, Utah Pride Center held a press conference, where executive director Valerie Larabee said, “For generations, history books will look to today’s Supreme Court decisions as a pivotal moment in the march for equality in the LGBT movement. For those of us at the Utah Pride Center, we were honored and humbled to be a part of this debate.”
DOMA, which was originally signed in 1996 by President Bill Clinton, defined marriage for federal purposes as between a man and a woman, but was challenged on 5th Amendment grounds of the equal-protection clause.
Justice Kennedy, who delivered the opinion of the court, was joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.
The court’s decision ruled that DOMA “violates basic due process and equal protection,” stating “DOMA seeks to injure the very class New York seeks to protect. By doing so, it violates basic due process and equal-protection principles applicable to the Federal Government.” The ruling also stated, “The Constitution’s guarantee of equality must at the very least mean that a bare congressional desire to harm a politically unpopular group cannot justify disparate treatment of that group.”
The court also ruled that because DOMA tells same-sex couples they are “less worthy” that it also “humiliates children of same-sex parents.” Justice Kennedy stated that being in a second-tier marriage places same-sex couples in an unstable position, and “the differentiation demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects … and it humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples. The law in question makes it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives.”
“Today, we celebrate the firm legal foundation the Court has established that will begin to wash away the layers of anti-gay legislation we have seen over the last few decades,” Larabee said. “The court set up a legal framework that makes clear that someone’s personal disapproval of gay and transgender people does not justify reason to enact anti-gay legislation.”
However, Gov. Gary Herbert released a statement on the court’s decision regarding DOMA, saying, “I have long believed that marriage is a states' rights issue. I support and will continue to defend Utah's constitutional definition of marriage as the legal union between a man and a woman. I also believe that discrimination has no place in society. I hope we can find a path that protects all from discrimination while defending the sanctity of traditional marriage."Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, also expressed his opposition to the ruling by releasing a statement saying, “I am disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision today regarding the Defense of Marriage Act. I believe that Act was a reasonable, constitutional exercise of the federal government’s power to determine the proper application of federal benefits. If the American people have changed their mind about that policy, then Congress, not the Court, should adjust it.”
To conclude her address at Utah Pride Center’s meeting, Larabee said, “At the end of the day, there is a real personal story behind these decisions … This is about a loving couple asking for the same dignity and respect as another couple … Today’s decision is about their hopes, dreams and aspirations as a couple to care for each other and have security for their family. Make no mistake; today’s decisions are as personal as they are historic and monumental.”
A "Decision Day Celebration" will be held Wednesday night, starting at 5 p.m. at Club Sound, 579 W. 200 South, sponsored in part by Democratic Party Chair Jim Dabakis, Equality Utah, the Utah Pride Center and others.
Photo courtesy of Drew Fillmore