Civil Rights: Equal Justice for All?
The major civil rights issue of the day involves marriage equality for same sex partners. Two cases have been heard by the U.S. Supreme Court recently. The cases involve constitutional challenges to California’s Proposition 8 and to the Defense of Marriage Act. While the arguments were being made inside the court, many people assembled outside in the cold to lend support or opposition to the participants inside. Whether for or against marriage equality, the observers turned out in large numbers because they believed the proceedings were highly significant. However, the court may have shown its reluctance to make a sweeping ruling, and the decision will likely leave much to be discussed and debated in the future.
California’s proposition 8 governs whether gay and lesbian couples may marry. Most observers believe the court will avoid a ruling altogether and that would mean gay and lesbian couples may start marrying again. This would be a narrow ruling and only apply to California.
The Defense of Marriage Act prevents the federal government from giving legally married gay and lesbian couples federal benefits. Congress has not given a reasonable justification for treating legally married same-sex couples differently than legally married opposite-sex couples. For this reason, the Defense of Marriage Act should be declared unconstitutional.
These cases will be decided this summer after the members of the court think and research their opinions. More issues about the rights of gays and lesbians will have to be resolved later after more citizens think about the American promise of equal justice for all.