"The arc of a moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."
Those words of Dr. Martin Luther King from so many years ago have relevance now. On Thursday, the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton over seventeen years ago. Out of the gates, the law was intentionally discriminatory in terms of the Federal Government's lack of recognition of marriage equality. Finally, after many court battles, much nonsense from politicians and religious leaders, the Supreme Court did the right thing and bent themselves towards justice. In a 5-4 decision, with Justice Anthony Kennedy writing the majority opinion, the law was struck down as unconstitutional and a violation of the 5th Amendment. Justice Kennedy wrote: "The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. "By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment."
As one might expect, without even reading about the opinion, the decision came down on ideological lines. The majority saw Justices Kennedy, Sotomayor, Ginsburg, Breyer and Kagan voting to overturn DOMA while Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Roberts were in the minority.
It's a somewhat sad statement to make but I expected DOMA to be overturned, principally because of Federalism and not because of the fact it discriminated against same-sex marriages. Cynical of me, I know, but I was convinced the opinion would overturned with a larger majority with Roberts writing the majority opinion discussing how this was federal government over-reach on something best left to the states. So, as with most good pessimists, I was pleasantly surprised to read Justice Kennedy's majority opinion that derided this law as "humiliating" and discriminatory. The plaintiff in this case, Edie Windsor, an 84 year old widow whose wife had passed away from Multiple Sclerosis several years ago and under DOMA's rules, since Edie was not considered the lawful spouse of Thea Spyer, who died in 2009, left an estate tax bill to Ms. Windsor of over $300 thousand dollars. Ms. Windsor sued, and on Thursday her long goal was finally achieved; that of legal recognition of what she already knew: that she and Ms. Spyer were indeed married.
What a painful road it was for Ms. Windsor, and others who because they love and care for someone of the same gender and wanted to get married could not because of this odious law. Now, the work is not done, because the court didn't go so far to say that same-sex marriage must be recognized in all states, but only in those were same-sex marriage is legal. So there are still "Edie Windsors" living in Texas, Florida, Alabama and other places who continue to suffer discrimination at the hands of state law. Some states, such as North Carolina, have placed constitutional amendments on their books defining marriage as between"one man and one woman". So be it. To me, these states who continue down this path will lose quite a lot. As with any discrimination, those who decry what the consider as "morally wrong" are blind to the fact that people simply want to be treated the same. There is a simple answer for those who do not like the idea of marriage equality: Don't get married to someone of the same sex. Simple. All the other nonsense is just that. Nonsense.
I applaud the Supreme Court's decision to strike down DOMA. The more we can throw discrimination of any type into the dustbin of history the better we become as a country.
Kudos to the 5, and to Ms. Edie Windsor, you can be proud of your battle, I'm sure your wife would be proud of you as well.