On the morning of June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States voted on two key decisions that will pave the way for same-sex couples in California to marry and allow other same-sex couples around the nation to receive previously-denied benefits.
Firstly, the Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a law signed in 1996 which ruled that the word marriage was defined as “only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.” This law essentially denied certain benefits for same-sex couples that were granted to opposite-sex couples around the nation.
The Supreme Court also turned away an appeal made by supporters of Proposition 8 to defend the measure after California courts ruled against it. In 2008, Californians voted in favor of Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in the state. Two years later, however, the proposition was deemed unconstitutional by District Court Judge Vaughn Walker. After which, private supporters of the measure made an appeal to the Supreme Court, attempting to defend the proposition. But the 5-4 vote made Wednesday by the justices ruled that private parties in favor of the proposition did not have “standing” to defend the ballot measure. In turn, the vote paved the way for same-sex partners in California to marry once again.
The Highlander contacted UCR political science professor Ben Bishin, an expert on same-sex marriage, for further information on Wednesday’s historic rulings.
With respect to the DOMA ruling, Bishin stated, “DOMA essentially denied gays and lesbians over a thousand federal benefits that heterosexual couples would receive. Almost all of those benefits will eventually be granted to same-sex couples because what the court ruled was that you can’t deny them benefits because they are same-sex couples.”
Some of these benefits included health insurance tax exemptions and immigration policies that didn’t allow same-sex couples from other countries to qualify for visas. Wednesday’s ruling on the DOMA will change all of that.
Bishin also spoke about the Proposition 8 ruling, stating that the measure “is going to allow gay marriage in California … because the court refused to consider the arguments in the case. They argued that the people bringing the case, appealing to them, did not have the ‘standing’ to sue. They weren’t the people who were responsible for pursuing the law.”
The Proposition 8 ruling will now allow same-sex couples in California to marry after a 25-day waiting period following the justices’ decision.
Reactions and opinions from UC Riverside students were mixed as some applauded the rulings, while others opposed it, citing personal or religious beliefs.
“I’m gay, so [the ruling’s] kind of a good thing,” said Daniel Horta, a psychology major at UCR. “I think that hopefully they start doing it in all the other states … I think that everything has to change at some point. So just because something was true four years ago doesn’t mean that it’s going to be true today.”
Jessica Nguyen, an art history and administrative studies major said, “People can do what they want. More freedom, you know? There shouldn’t be a rule or any laws telling you who you can or cannot marry so it’s a good day for anyone who is gay.”
“I figured it was inevitable; things change over time. People who are against same-sex marriage — there isn’t any legal argument, it’s all religious. That shouldn’t have any standard in the court of law,” said UCR student Marwah Dawlody.
Other students were against the ruling, believing that marriage should be between a man and a woman.
“I don’t think that [same-sex marriage] should be allowed. That’s my opinion. It’s not that I don’t like gay people, it’s just that I don’t approve of gay marriage. It’s only because I’ve grown up in church all my life, that’s how I’ve been raised,” said Amanda Neverman, a psychology major at UCR.
“I don’t feel comfortable with that. I think they should have left it alone. I don’t have anything against [same-sex couples], but it was already voted on,” argued Jonathan Preciado, a second-year undeclared major in CNAS.
There were a few students with completely differing opinions. One stated that while she supported same-sex marriage, she did not approve the ruling.
“I totally support gay marriage … but at the same time I think there is a danger in having the Supreme Court being able to overrule something that was already passed and decided,” said Juanita Overstreet, third-year theatre major “Do we really have the freedom to decided on these things or are they just being decided fo us? Is democracy really as real as we say it is, or not?”
Another student admitted that while he didn’t approve same-sex marriage, he did respect the recent decisions of the Supreme Court.
“It’s not legal for anyone to enforce that,” said Dane R., a graduate student at UCR. “You can pass whatever [law] you want. I’m personally against same-sex marriage. But you can pass a vote or whatever. If it’s unconstitutional, it’s unconstitutional.”
Justices voted 5-4 in each of the two decisions.