The New York Senate passed and Gov. Cuomo signed a marriage equality law in New York last night. Thus the Empire State becomes the sixth American state to support full marriage equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. The Supreme Court has declared marriage to be a basic federal right fourteen times. As such the constitution guarantees all Americans equal rights under law. Because DOMA has yet to be repealed or declared unconstitutional (unlikely with the current Supreme Court) individual states must pass their own marriage equality laws. While the trend is definitely towards equality Pennsylvania remains mired in medieval thinking centered around bigotry and intolerance.
Zablocki v. Redhail (1978): Marriage is a right of fundamental importance. Although Loving arose in racial context, the decisions of this Court confirm that the “right to marry is of fundamental importance to all individuals.” “The most important relation in life.”
Loving v. Virginia (1967): “The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.” “Marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man'” quoting Skinner.
Griswold v. Conn. (1965): “[Marriage is] a right of privacy older than the Bill of Rights – older than our political parties, older than our school systems. Marriage is a coming together . . . hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred. It is an association . . . a harmony in living . . . a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects.”
Because marriage equality is denied to Pennsylvanians 1, 138 federal rights conferred on married couples are denied to LGBT Pennsylvanians making us second class citizens. In America the only class systems are economic (all of us are second class to the richest 2%). The argument this is a state’s rights issue, if you recall, was also used to prevent interracial marriage and school segregation. It has been a tool of southern extremists throughout our history.
In fact when California attempted to block marriage equality U.S. District Court affirmed in Perry v. Schwarzenegger that “…Because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.” Regardless New York did the right thing last night and advanced civil rights for LGBT citizens in that state. Perhaps now Pennsylvanians being discriminated against can visit the Empire State to gain full citizenship.