Roosevelt Institute | Cornell University

Strides Continue in the Fight for Marriage Equality

By Alex GoldsteinPublished October 21, 2014

Over the past couple of days, gay-rights activists and supporters of marriage equality have made great progress throughout the United States.

By Alex Goldstein, 10/21/2014

In a surprising decision this Monday, the Supreme Court chose not to grant writs of certiorari to appeals of three federal court rulings striking down bans on marriage equality in five different states, effectively legitimizing these federal appeals court rulings allowing same-sex marriage.  Although the Supreme Court did not take up these cases, possibly due to the liberal justices' fear that there is still not enough support within the Supreme Court for marriage equality to win a strictly yes or no decision, their choice to not review these cases will expand the right of same-sex marriage to at least Virginia, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Utah, and Indiana. 

But the beginning of same-sex marriages in these five states was not the end of the progress that has been made this week.  After a federal appeals court in the West reviewed this subject on Tuesday, they decided to overturn marriage bans in both Idaho and Nevada, allowing for an even broader expansion of civil rights to the LGBT community. 

The progress made in just these two days represents not merely a shift in the way that the courts view the issue of marriage equality, but more significantly the shifting tides in American public opinion that "could signal the inevitability of the right of same-sex marriage nationwide."  Regardless of these circumstances, history has proven that the decisions (or lack thereof) of the American court system are rarely far off from the general attitudes of the day, especially in cases concerning civil rights.  As long as activists remain vocal and public opinion continues to shift in favor of gay rights, I believe that it will not be long before the Supreme Court rules in favor of universal marriage equality, correcting the injustice that too many still face today.

Despite this recent progress, however, there are still many who disagree with my optimistic view on the expansion of gay rights in the future.  Following Tuesday's decision holding unconstitutional Idaho's ban on same sex marriage, opponents of same-sex marriage in Idaho filed a plea to the Supreme Court to block that decision.  Strangely enough, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy quickly approved this plea Wednesday morning, despite the fact that such a block will have limited overall effects and many are predicting will almost surely be lifted within the week.  The Idahoan opposition wishes to continue their legal arguments against marriage equality in the federal appeals court or the Supreme Court.  Yet, according to Idaho, the state's ban on same-sex marriage does not discriminate against gays, but rather "favors man-woman marriage, and thus it would allow a gay or lesbian person to get married to a person of the opposite sex," an argument that is both baffling and impractical. 

Justice Kennedy's decision to aid the opposition in Idaho is representative of a national and significant movement of people trying to fight the upward battle against marriage equality.  These individuals may not be protesting these rulings with malicious intent, but their efforts to block these laws will ultimately prove futile, as "there could soon be 35 states with gay marriage, up from 19 at the beginning of the week."  Moving forward, I believe it is necessary that members of the American political and judicial systems abandon their outdated prejudices against gay rights if they hope to stay relevant in an era that has and will continue to focus on the importance of social progress.

The dramatic shift in public perception regarding gay rights is unprecedented in United States history and provides hope for minority groups that they will not have to face as great a fear of legal or social discrimination as the country moves forward. As we keep track of this issue over the next few weeks, I am hopeful that marriage equality will continue to spread across the nation.