So, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (one of the unfortunate “will THIS get you assholes off my fucking back?” toxic-compromise maneuvers of the Clinton era) in key areas, ruling that the Federal Government is Constitutionally prohibited from denying any federal benefits of marriage to same-sex couples married in states where such marriages are legal.
A big win, to be sure, and another step on the inevitable path to full equal marriage for all. But the court also stopped short of ruling one way or the other on a challenge to California’s repeal of the gay marriage ban Proposition 8, finding the issue improperly brought before the court and punting it back to the state. So California gets to keep equal marriage… but for now, other states get to keep banning it. The DOMA provision allowing less-enlightened states to refuse to recognize marriages conducted in states with differing laws is also still in-effect; though that will almost-certainly fall on a separate challenge (for example: a military same-sex family is reassigned to a marriage-ban state sues to avoid losing multiple legal protections) either to this court or by the Justice Department.
This is a big, big step and should be recognized as such; but it’s not a slam-dunk. The troubling thing about both this and the shameful gutting of the Voting Rights Act yesterday is that both give heavy credence to the prehistoric notion of “State’s Rights” conservatism as envisioned by Bush II appointees John Roberts and Samuel Alito. As I’ve said elsewhere, “State’s Rights” is a nice idea for small, local issues but for big broad-effect stuff has no functional place in a modern society of instant communication and coast-to-coast air travel; and the nonsense we saw go down in the Texas legislature overnight is rather illustrative of that.
So, then, what we have now is a country once again divided between states where all citizens are equal and states where only some are equal; and the last time we were in that place it went pretty bad for all involved and really, really bad for the states/people who were on the wrong side of history. Hopefully it won’t come to that – hopefully we’ve evolved in that regard, too.