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Editorial: State of marriage

June 27, 2013

June 27, 2013

Marriage, one might argue, is not for everyone.

But for all the reasons why a couple should not take this momentous step, that fact that the relationship involves a same-sex couple should not be a consideration.

Last week’s historic U.S. Supreme Court decision did not remove all the hurdles for gay and lesbian couples to enter into marriage across the nation. The ruling still leaves states to decide ... and at this point there are 13 states that allow same-sex couples to get married while 31 states have some kind of prohibition on the books.

Clearly, there is significant work left to do in making marriage available to gay couples no matter what state they happen to live in.

Thankfully, the federal government will no longer be a partner in that ban.

In striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the law that laid out the blueprint for how the federal government dealt with those legally married same-sex couples on issues like benefits, a majority of the justices said it was unconstitutional. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said “the federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.”

Equal under the law.

It’s one of the concepts that is a building block of our Constitution, one that Americans have woven into the fabric of our society. And, as the majority of the court found, treating people unequally has no place in federal law, including deciding who can and cannot be married.

Yes, the ruling also reflects changing views in our society about same-sex marriage and gays in general. The nation has witnessed this kind of shift before, in particular the fight against segregation — against a divided society in which interracial marriage bans were on the books. It took plenty of blood, sweat and tears, but the nation and its laws in this regard have changed.

So, too, will the acceptance of same-sex marriage.

And like the ingredients for a good marriage, the changes will require time, understanding, commitment, love and even just a bit of luck. Then there will still be reasons why people shouldn’t get married, but it just won’t have anything to so with the gender of those involved.

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