Same-sex marriage receives day in court

Same-sex marriage receives day in court

Same-sex marriage receives day in court
May 01
01:18 2014

Caitlyn Jones // Staff Writer

After pulling up to a stoplight, Allison Dorn glanced around. What she saw made her stomach drop. A car full of teenagers pulled up beside her, yelling anti-gay slurs and flipping her off.

It was no mystery why they were doing this. Dorn has an equal rights sticker on her car.

“Stuff like that doesn’t happen often but it does happen,” the hospitality management senior said.

Even so, equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals is an important issue for Dorn and is currently receiving quite a bit of attention in the court system.

Since January, federal judges have been striking down same-sex marriage bans across the country. Michigan most recently joined the ranks of Texas, Virginia, Oklahoma and Utah as states whose bans have been deemed unconstitutional by U.S. district courts. Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee have also been ordered by the courts to recognize out-of-state, same-sex marriages.

However, action has been put on hold pending an appeals process.

“The question is whether the states can prohibit or expand gay marriage rights,” political science professor Kimi King said. “One of those cases is going to inevitably make it to the U.S. Supreme Court and you’ll just have to wait for your answer on that one.”

Looking to the past

King said many of the arguments used in the case of gay marriage resemble those used against interracial marriage in the 1960s.

“[They said] it would cause the collapse of the family, traditionally society has never accepted such marriages, the state would have to acknowledge polygamous marriages, it was unnatural or immoral,” King said, listing arguments used in the past. “Without a doubt, there are similar strategies and approaches used to changing any law.”

DornMug

Mae Scally and Allison Dorn

However, it was some of these arguments that Judge Orlando Garcia used as a rationale for declaring the ban in Texas unconstitutional.

“Tradition, alone, cannot form a rational basis for a law,” Garcia said when he handed down his ruling on February 26.

Since the LGBT rights movement began in the 1970s, the issue has picked up steam.

The movement hit a roadblock in 1996 when former President Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act, officially defining marriage as “a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife” in the eyes of the federal government.

States then began deciding whether or not to ban same-sex marriage by constitutional means or by using state statutes. Massachusetts was the first state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004. However, Texas became one of the 32 states to put a ban on it in 2005.

The amendment to the Texas Constitution reads, “Marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman.”

It continues, “This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.”

Other activists say this amendment violates a previous amendment that states: “Equality under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of sex, race, color, creed or national origin.”

Marriage equality gained national attention again last June in the court case Windsor v. U.S. The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act and allow homosexual couples to have the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples.

Since then, courts have been taking second looks at state bans and giving new vigor to the LGBT movement.

“The courts have made the right decision,” said John Turner-McClelland, president of Stonewall Democrats of Denton County. “I don’t see how any laws can stand when they violate our own bill of rights.”

Hot-button issue

Currently, there are 17 states that permit gay marriage, with Illinois being the last to join the list in February.

The issue of gay marriage will be hotly contested in the race for governor of Texas this year. The national organization Stonewall Democrats is broken down into state and city levels with each individual chapter endorsing LGBT-friendly candidates.

“We also vote, give money and get people to work on campaigns,” Turner-McClelland said.

The group is working to promote Senator Wendy Davis for governor, who has publicly said she supports same-sex marriage.

1_gaymarriage_graphic1

“It’s my strong belief that when people love each other and are desirous of creating a committed relationship with each other that they should be allowed to marry, regardless of their sexual orientation,” Davis told the San Antonio Express-News in February.

Her opponent, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, promises to appeal the court’s decision to lift the ban if elected.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled over and over again that states have the authority to define and regulate marriage,” he said in a statement immediately after the ruling. “The Texas Constitution defines marriage as between one man and one woman. If the Fifth Circuit honors those precedents, then today’s decision should be overturned and the Texas Constitution will be upheld.”

The future of same-sex marriage

What exactly will happen regarding these federal rulings once they go to a court of appeals is unclear, but King says other same-sex rights issues will come up in court.

“Discrimination in employment and housing will all become issues that are more and more litigated,” she said. “Gay adoption and foster families, along with gay divorce cases will become more frequent. Now same-sex couples can experience all the heartache heterosexuals go through with divorces.”

Those supporting equal marriage rights are hopeful but cautious of the next turn the rulings could take.

“Originally, I didn’t think it would be legalized but I think it’ll happen quicker than we think,” Turner-McClelland said. “It’s taken a complete 180.”

However, Allison Dorn remains skeptical.

“The ruling is definitely a big step in the right direction but I think Texas legalizing it is far off,” she said.

That won’t stop her from getting married. She and her longtime girlfriend, Mae Scally, plan to leave Texas in the near future.

“We want to elope to Washington but we’re considering Colorado or California, too,” she said. “Texas is too conservative and we’re too liberal.”

Colorado allows civil unions but not marriages. Dorn still hopes for a brighter future but is unsatisfied with the current situation of not being able to get married in her home state.

“If we could elope now, we would but we just can’t do that,” she said. “It’s sad and disheartening. It definitely makes you feel like a minority.”

Left photo: Hospitality management senior Allison Dorn (right) and her girlfriend Mae Scally attend a Lana Del Ray concert together in Dallas. The pair hopes to move out of state to get married in the future. Photo courtesy of Allison Dorn

Center: Graphic by Nicole Arnold / Visuals Editor 

Feature photo: Demonstrators in support of gay marriage gather in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on June 25, 2013, in Washington, DC. Photo courtesy of Pete Marovich, MCT

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