After many dark days, today the Supreme Court shone a light across the world with a decision that will make this day stand among the landmark days in the history of our diverse America. Like with Brown v. Board of Education, Loving v. Virginia, and its other great decisions, today, in U.S. v. Windsor, the Supreme Court did what that Court should always do – stood as the last defense for the Constitution, for the rights of ordinary Americans, against those who would use power to desecrate American freedom and denigrate American citizens.
DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment, the Court held. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which “defended” only the rights of those who wish to discriminate against America’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender minority, is no more. Hard-working, tax-paying, law-abiding LGBT Americans like Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer are entitled to the same rights as the rest of us – including the rights to love one another, have their love sanctioned by the state, and obtain the same benefits as other married couples – even the right to care for one another after death, by providing for each other in their estates.
Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Breyer, and Kagan have fought in recent days to defend civil rights, the rights of the disenfranchised, of small businesses – of all ordinary Americans. Justice Kennedy has voted against these protections. Only yesterday, Justice Kennedy wrote for the majority, making it harder for those who stand against civil rights violations and suffer retaliation to obtain redress, in University of Texas Southwestern Med. Center v. Nassar. But today, Justice Kennedy did the right thing.
As his opinion today said of the now-dead DOMA:
DOMA singles out a class of persons deemed by a State entitled to recognition and protection to enhance their own liberty. It imposes a disability on the class by refusing to acknowledge a status the State finds to be dignified and proper. DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others. 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. 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.
Slip Op., at pp. 25-26.
When dignity triumphs in the Supreme Court, it is a great day for America. I will remember today. We all will.
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