Fair warning to readers: Today is one of those very rare days when The Legal Genealogist will take on a non-genealogical issue.
Genealogy is the first and foremost focus of this blog. It will take something truly extraordinary to shift the focus away from genealogy.
But today is one of those days.
Because today — just seconds ago, just after 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 — today, the United States Supreme Court passed judgment on two cases that concerned me deeply even though they don’t affect me or, indeed, most Americans at all.
No matter what the Supreme Court had chosen to do today with the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) — which denied federal benefits, like Social Security benefits or the ability to file joint tax returns, to same-sex couples, it was clear to anyone with half a brain that there would be absolutely no impact — none at all — on the marriages of straight Americans from sea to shining sea.
The choices we straight Americans have made, good, bad or indifferent, weren’t at stake here. They wouldn’t be called into question. We’d still be married, divorced, engaged, or not, just as we were before.
And the same was obviously true of the case focusing on the California ballot proposition on same-sex marriage. No matter what the outcome was, folks who are straight weren’t going to be affected one bit.
And that, really, is the point.
It’s at the heart of why I stand, firmly and unhesitatingly, for marriage equality.
And why, today, I proudly wear the red, white and blue for the Supreme Court and its marriage equality rulings.
Today’s rulings don’t affect my rights at all. I already have the right to commit to someone else, to stand with another, to pledge to another, to support another in good times and in bad.
But they affect the rights and interests and hopes and desires of people I know — people I love. People who, before this morning, didn’t have the rights I have. Couldn’t file a joint income tax return with their committed partner. Couldn’t be the beneficiary of their committed partner’s Social Security benefits or pension benefits. Couldn’t do in so many ways what I can do without question.
These rights shouldn’t be considered gay rights. They’re human rights. Rights of people who have faces. And names. Of friends, of colleagues, and of many I love with all my heart. People like my niece and her partner, whose faces and names I decline to use online because they are what they are, two women who love each other in a country where, even after these decisions today, the law still allows them to be discriminated against for that fact alone.
I cannot and do not accept such discrimination. I cannot and do not understand it. That they find joy in a partner of the same sex is so much less important than that they find joy in a partner.
And I am so proud that, today, that we have taken the first steps towards seeing to it that such discrimination will end.
They’re only the first steps — the DOMA case was a bare 5-4 majority, and the merits of the California case weren’t even reached (the case was dismissed on technical grounds having to do with the Court’s authority to hear the particular challenge). But they are critical first steps towards equality for us all. Even those who, like me, aren’t affected by these decisions at all.