Democratic Socialists of America celebrates the two Supreme Court rulings on marriage equality as a major step in the unending struggle for equal rights for the LGBTQ community. A reactionary Supreme Court has had to recognize that most Americans now accept marriage equality. The Court’s decision will enable married same-sex couples to access federal benefits and strikes down Proposition 8’s ban on same-sex marriage in California.
These rulings do not end the struggle for equal marital rights for the LGBTQ community. Although both decisions of the Court reference the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of “equal protection” and “due process before the law,” the Court failed to establish a federal right to same sex marriage by holding state bans on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional. Nor did the Court explicitly state that recalcitrant states must recognize, under the “full faith and credit” clause of the Constitution, the legally married status of LGBT couples married in other states. This could affect whether same-sex couples married in one state, but residing in a state without same-sex marriage, could access all federal benefits. And LGBT couples married in one state, but resident in one in which same-sex marriage does not exist, might still be denied the legal rights of a spouse (e.g., to hospital visitation, legal power of attorney, inheritance, child custody).
Just as marriage rights should not be tied to procreation, the right to bear and raise children should not be tied solely to the institution of marriage. Couples who choose to legally codify their mutual commitment by civil unions should have exactly the same child custody, inheritance, and social rights as married couples. Many individuals identify the institution of marriage with religious institutions or with binary conceptions of gender and sexual identity. Thus, the legal spread of the practice of civil unions, as exists in much of Europe, would expand the options for those who wish to express mutual, loving commitments.
Furthermore, most of the human rights violations that the LGBTQ persons experience are not tied up with the issue of marriage nor are they addressed by the Court’s decision. In most states and localities, LGBTQ persons have no legal redress to employment discrimination nor is the frequent violence against the community recognized as a hate crime. We still live in a country where violence is visited upon LGBTQ persons daily and where employers can legally fire (or not hire) persons simply based on an aversion to their sexual orientation. Nor does a gain in civil rights guarantee that those rights will last forever; they must constantly be defended and expanded through struggle.
LGBTQ activists and their allies recognize that basic human rights such as health care should not be tied to one’s marital (or employment) status – all people should have quality healthcare and old-age income security regardless of their marital status, economic status, or employment history. Therefore even as we celebrate these gains in LGBTQ rights, we also recognize how far we still have to go as a society and world, and reaffirm our commitment to the struggle for equal rights for all.
Statement on the Supreme Court marriage equality decisions by the National Political Committee of DSA.