Victory for Equality!

by | Jun 26, 2013 | Supreme Court and Judicial Nominations

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a historic victory for same-sex couples and our nation’s promise of equal protection under the law. By striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a federal law that barred the government from recognizing same-sex marriages, and clearing the way for same-sex marriage to resume in California, the Court took the nation forward — toward the day when all citizens are treated equally under the law.

In the California or “Proposition 8” case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, the Court let stand a lower court ruling that found Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage, to be unconstitutional. As a result, same-sex marriage is once again legal in California.

In the DOMA case, United States v. Windsor, the Court restored state laws recognizing same-sex marriage — effectively granting same-sex couples in those states the same rights as heterosexual married couples. The Court recognized that DOMA was nothing more than discrimination, rooted in inequality and aimed at interfering with the “equal dignity of same-sex marriages.” The majority opinion stresses the detrimental impact of DOMA on same-sex couples, their children and their families.

The ruling will have a tremendous impact on same-sex couples’ ability to access federal protections and benefits, including access to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). We are thrilled. The FMLA guarantees eligible workers the right to take job-protected, unpaid leave to address their own serious illnesses; to care for a family member, including a spouse, with a serious medical condition; or to deal with the injury or deployment of a military family member.

But prior to the Court’s decision today, DOMA excluded same-sex couples from the FMLA’s protections — even if a couple’s marriage was recognized under state law. Thanks to the Court’s decision, FMLA leave benefits will be extended to same-sex couples in states that recognize same-sex marriage. This is a long overdue expansion of the now 20-year-old law, and just one example of the type of federal protections to which same-sex couples will now be rightfully entitled.

The National Partnership joined with allies in the women’s and legal communities to file friend-of-the-court briefs in each of the two cases, calling on the Court to recognize Proposition 8 and DOMA as discriminatory and unconstitutional. Given its deeply disappointing decisions in Vance v. Ball State University, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar and Shelby County v. Holder, we couldn’t be more pleased that the Court did the right thing in these cases. It has paved the way for future progress for same-sex couples and for fundamental equality in our nation.