On Friday morning, June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution guarantees the right to same-sex marriage across all 50 states.
Before this ruling, same-sex marriage was only recently deemed legal in 36 states — with Massachusetts being the first in 2004 and North Carolina (among 19 others) joining just last year.
A document from this morning’s Supreme Court debate reads, “The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity. The petitioners in these cases seek to find that liberty by marrying someone of the same sex and having their marriages deemed lawful on the same terms and conditions between persons of the opposite sex.”
The decision was passed 5-4.
“The majority claims that the issue is a right to equal treatment,” reads another passage from the document. “Noting that marriage is a fundamental right, the majority argues that a state has no valid reason for denying that right to same-sex couples. … The fundamental purpose of marriage is to promote the well-being of those who choose to marry. Marriage provides emotional fulfillment and the promise of support in times of need. And by benefiting persons who choose to wed, marriage indirectly benefits society because persons who live in stable, fulfilling and supportive relationships make better citizens.”
Just after 11 a.m., President Barack Obama spoke on the ruling. To watch, click here or view below:
“Our nation was founded on a bedrock principle that we are all created equal,” the President said late Friday morning. “The project of each generation is to bridge the meaning of those founding words with the realities of changing times — a neverending quest to ensure that those words ring true for every single American.
“Progress on this journey often comes in small increments: sometimes two steps forward, one step back, propelled by the persistent effort of dedicated citizens,” he continued. “And sometimes there are days like this, where that slow, steady effort is awarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.”
The Campaign for Southern Equality will be hosting a victory party, gathering at Vance Monument from 5-6 p.m., then heading over to Asheville Brewing Company on Coxe Avenue at 6:30-8:30 p.m., concluding the celebration at O’Henry’s after 8:30 p.m.
“For LGBT families in North Carolina, this historic ruling means their marriages are fully secure and have been affirmed by the highest court in the land,” says Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, in a press release. “Through this landmark decision, the Court has signaled that policies that treat LGBT people as second-class citizens do not fulfill the American promise of equal protection under the law and cannot stand.”
And for Paula Garrett, vice president of academic affairs and dean of the college at Warren Wilson, this decision means that she can “exhale deeper than I could in a long time.”
She and her wife were legally married last spring in New York, a decade after their initial commitment ceremony. Now, she says, “People all across the country who are legally married but whose states don’t recognize it — now those states must recognize it. I have friends in Mississippi who were not legally married in their state until 10 o’ clock this morning. It’s just huge.”
According to the CSE and Census data, there were an estimated 19,327 households in North Carolina with same-sex couples in 2012. And, the campaign writes, LGBT individuals in North Carolina still lack many basic legal protections in the areas of employment, housing and family rights. Despite this ruling, the release continues, it’s still legal to fire someone in North Carolina for simply being LGBT.
“This is not a broad ruling on LGBT rights,” Garrett continues. The decisions made today “are specifically rulings about marriage. There’s still issues with workplace security, especially in terms of getting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act law passed. I think that’s a huge frontier.”
One big victory for Garrett and her family, though, is that these legally married couples will have the same rights extended to their children that apply to opposite-sex marriages. “What it means for [my 7-year-old son] is that he has way more legal protections,” she says. “Both of his moms now have legal rights to him and legal responsibilities to him [in all 50 states]. It futher stabilizes the family.”
On Oct. 10, 2014, Amendment One was struck down by a ruling issued by U.S. District Court Judge Max O. Cogburn, Jr., and marriages in Buncombe County began immediately, with more than 30 couples marrying within hours of the ruling. By Monday, Oct. 13, every county in North Carolina was issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Garrett’s son and other small children may not understand the historic significance of this yet, but, “When he is older, he will understand that there was a period in this country’s history that his parents’ marriage was not recognized. Right now, though, he’s seven. He just knows I’m Mama and she’s Mommy.”