UPDATE: On the morning of June 26th, the Supreme Court announced a ruling on this issue, finding that same-sex couples have a constitutionally protected right to marriage. Read more here.
We are all eagerly awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage (bi people very often partner with people of the same sex, after all). The decision facing the court is often portrayed by the media as “whether or not to legalize same-sex marriage,” however that is not totally accurate. The truth is a little more complex (and much more interesting). It’s important to clarify a few details so that when the Court issues its ruling, we will know what it actually means. At the heart of it all, the Justices are attempting to answer two questions:
1) Is it constitutional to ban same-sex marriage?
2) Is a state constitutionally obliged to acknowledge same-sex marriages made out of state?
Note that whatever the Court decides, it will not result in “legalizing same sex marriage” per se (although a sufficiently solid ruling that renders bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional would have that eventual outcome as local courts strike down such bans). Also note that the Court could very well rule in the affirmative on the second question and not on the first (or vice versa). So, when the ruling is announced, it will be interesting to see what the real consequences are (regardless of the potentially misleading headlines that will inevitably appear all over the net).
It’s easy to forget how many people are affected by this decision. It’s not just about the right of two people to marry, but also about the rights of children to be properly cared for by their parents, the rights of family members to visit sick loved ones, the rights of heirs to their inheritance, and so much more.
We now face a potential paradigm shift for society. There are many heroes who have struggled for over a century to help us get to this point. What is unfolding today with same sex marriage parallels the process that formally enabled interracial marriage in the U.S. a few short decades ago. The majority doesn’t have the right to oppress any minority or any individual. As advocates for the bi community, we obviously hope the majority of Justices on the Supreme Court will find that laws banning same-sex marriage violate the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. And yet there are many in the United States who still find the mere idea of a same-sex couple viscerally disturbing including, apparently, a couple of the more conservative Justices on the Supreme Court. May the spirit of equality and fairness soften the hearts of those who wish to slow down the growing societal acceptance of LGBT people.
So far, things look promising. Most experts expect the Court to rule in a way that is at least somewhat favorable to same-sex marriage. Hopefully, those experts are right. This is a tense, exciting period for a movement that has been long in the making.
Whatever the Justices decide, one thing is for certain. The tide is turning with regard to public opinion. In recent years, polls have shown that a majority of Americans support same sex marriage. Support for marriage equality has consistently remained above 50% since 2010. If our highest court doesn’t do the right thing this time, Americans will continue to stand up and demand justice. Whether now or in the near future, we are confident that marriage equality for LGBT people will come. And that is a beautiful thing.