By Jeff Hara
There’s a good reason for Californians to be gay today. Hours after the Supreme Court ruling to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, we have yet to see how much this will impact the state of gay rights.
DOMA, which was enacted by the Clinton administration in 1996 and excluded gay unions from the legal definition of marriage, was ruled unconstitutional on the basis that same-sex couples were “deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law” guaranteed to them by the Fifth Amendment.
In this case, United States v. Windsor, Edie Windsor of New York took on $363,000 worth of federal taxes after her spouse died, sparking debate over how same-sex couples should be treated under federal law.
“The avowed purpose and practical effect of the law here in question are to impose a disadvantage, a separate status, and so a stigma upon all who enter into same-sex marriages made lawful by the unquestioned authority of the States,” justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in his written statement regarding the ruling.
However, the advances made for gay rights are not yet clearly defined. Due to the close 5-4 ruling, specifics on procedures for same-sex marriages as well as future legislation have not yet been determined.
Stanford Law School reference librarian Sergio Stone suggests that since the court was so divided on Proposition 8, which was dismissed today, subsequent legislation will be narrowly tailored.
“We still don’t know how broadly it will be applied,” Stone said. “Most likely, [the decision to dismiss Prop 8] was just based on that statute.”
Today’s events are game-changing; the cases are a testament to America’s evolving standards. In 2011, the Obama administration took an active stance against DOMA and advocated that it was discrimination based on sexual orientation.
“You’ve seen other states granting gay marriage and even other countries, so this had a strong influence as well,” Stone said.
Over the past decade, the case developed significantly, and the ruling may be comparable to Brown v. Board of Education in magnitude.
“I think that it is a landmark case,” Stone said. “It will be a catalyst for discussion.”