Hali McKinley Lester Freshman,
International Studies major
In the past year, numerous court decisions struck down state laws banning gay marriage. As a result of these decisions, 36 of the 50 states have legalized gay marriage. About two years after it over turned the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the United States Supreme Court announced that it will likely make a decision on federal legalization of gay marriage by the end of June.
The Supreme Court will hear an appeal from a ruling of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which back in November upheld gay marriage bans in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee. The court will decide whether the 14th Amendment requires states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and whether states have to recognize same sex-marriage performed in states where it is legal. This decision could result in a federal legalization of marriage.
Many states have seen their official stance on gay marriage change in the past decade. Since Massachusetts first legalized gay marriage in 2003, 35 additional states started recognizing same-sex marriage. Florida recently legalized same-sex marriage after several court decisions overturned the 2008 constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage and civil unions in Florida. The remaining bans on same sex marriage are increasingly controversial, since a majority of the states have legalized same-sex marriage.
During the State of the Union address, President Obama referenced the recent developments in same sex marriage: “I’ve seen something like gay marriage go from a wedge issue used to drive us apart to a story of freedom across our country, a civil right now legal in states that seven in ten Americans call home.” President Obama’s public support of gay marriage provides encouraging hope for our country’s progression. Additionally, the president’s statement could show the Supreme Court his tacit approval, increasing chances for popular support of the legalization of gay marriage.
Although states currently have the power to ban gay marriage, most of the recent court cases to overturn these bans have been in federal courts. Therefore, many people argue that it should be a federal right, allowing same-sex couples to qualify for federal benefits. The Supreme Court has the opportunity to facilitate equality throughout the country. If the court decides samesex marriage is unconstitutional, it could degrade years of progress and would prove incredibly controversial in American society. The US eagerly anticipates the Supreme Court’s imminent decision as we could witness history in the progression of civil rights.