Supreme Court Ruling Discards Proposition 8, Upholds Marriage Equality … But Only In California

Marriage equality supporters await the Supreme Court's decision on Proposition 8.

This Californian’s joy in seeing Proposition 8 decisively rejected is only marred by the conservative-leaning Supreme Court’s ‘States Rights’ rationale. Photo from UPI.

Today truly felt like “morning in America” for marriage equality supporters when the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) AND Proposition 8. Mike Sacks and Ryan J. Reilly report from the Huffington Post:

By a 5-4 vote, the justices held in Hollingsworth v. Perry that the traditional marriage activists who put Proposition 8 on California ballots in 2008 did not have the constitutional authority, or standing, to defend the law in federal courts after the state refused to appeal its loss at trial.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for himself and his fellow justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Antonin Scalia, Stephen Breyer, and Elena Kagan in his majority opinion:

“We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to. We decline to do so for the first time here.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy filed a dissenting opinion, which was joined by Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and — curiously — Sonia Sotomayor.

Alas, this Californian’s joy in seeing Proposition 8 rejected is marred by the conservative-leaning Supreme Court’s “states’ rights” rationale. Make no mistake: The Supreme Court has only handed marriage equality supporters a (very) narrow victory. Their ruling on Hollingsworth v. Perry doesn’t uphold gay people’s right to marry and enjoy the same rights and legal protections heterosexual couples do, nor does it bar other states from instituting discriminatory anti-marriage equality laws. They just rejected a specific law in a specific state because the state chose not to challenge the 9th Circuit Court’s ruling that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional. Had the State of California joined the Proposition 8 legal team’s appeal, the Supreme Court’s decision could have easily swung the other way and upheld California’s anti-marriage equality bill based on their supposed “states’ rights.”

Conservatives love trotting out that creaky old “states’ rights” argument when they want to deny equal rights to their fellow citizens without sounding bigoted and hateful. This smokescreen has served them well since they started using “states’ rights” to defend slavery back in pre-Civil War days. For some reason, nobody ever seems to challenge “states’ rights” as a legal justification for institutionalized discrimination against gays, women, people of color, undocumented residents, non-Christians and others. Sure, we can all jump for joy over today’s rulings and revel in taking these few tottering baby steps forward. But as long as the highest court in the land believes that individual states have the “right” to oppress entire groups of citizens with impunity, we’ve got a long way to go.

Related articles from Addicting Info: