The U.S. Supreme Court made history last week with a pair of decisions on same-sex marriage that left gay rights advocates celebrating.
In one ruling, the court gutted a mean-spirited federal law, the Defense of Marriage Act, that prevented legally married same-sex couples from receiving tax, health and pension benefits that are available to heterosexual married couples. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy rightfully pointed out that the purpose of the law was to impose a disadvantage and “a stigma upon all who enter into same-sex marriages made lawful by the unquestioned authority of the state.”
In the second ruling, the high court cleared the way for same-sex marriages to resume in California, finding that sponsors of Proposition 8 lacked standing to defend the ban on gay-marriage in the courts after California’s attorney general and governor declined to do so. The Supreme Court’s ruling leaves in place a trial court’s decision that the Proposition 8 ban is unconstitutional.
There’s no question that these rulings advance the cause of equal rights for gay and lesbian couples throughout the nation. But it’s unfortunate that the Supreme Court stopped short of declaring that it’s unconstitutional for states to prevent same sex-couples from marrying.
Like it or not, this is the civil rights issue of our time, and future generations will judge us by how we handle it. Not too long ago, it was illegal for interracial couples to marry. Before that, it was acceptable to segregate blacks and whites in schools.
We’d venture to say that most Americans look back on those periods of our country’s history with embarrassment and regret. So, too, will it be when future generations look back to this period when most states in the U.S. don’t allow same-sex marriages.
We are heartened by the fact that more and more people are realizing that it’s wrong to discriminate against individuals because of their sexual orientation and that it’s wrong to keep committed, same-sex couples from marrying.
Unfortunately, our courts and lawmakers have yet to find the courage to declare that same-sex couples have a fundamental right to marry.
While the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings, we feel, did not go as far as they should have, they did, at least, head in the right direction, and that is progress.
In New Mexico, same-sex marriage is still precluded by state statute, according to Attorney General Gary King. Fortunately, those statutes are being challenged.
We hope that when it comes time for our state Supreme Court to weigh in, that it will do the right thing and hold that all New Mexicans — be they gay or straight — deserve to be treated equally under the law.