Same-sex marriage and its legality has a chequered history in the United States. But, a change of heart within the Supreme Court could soon change the laws surrounding federal acceptance to benefit those committed in such marriages in a new ruling this week.
The fight for same-sex marriage recognition began in earnest in the US in the 1970s, gaining support in the 1980s. Then, in 1996, The Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA) was signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton. DOMA, a law that clearly defined heterosexual marriages and allowed individual states to reject recognition of same-sex marriage, is now seen by many as out-dated. Since the 2000’s, public support for same-sex recognition has grown hugely across the US and the world, but simultaneously, President Bush – just 8 years on from Clinton’s signing into law of DOMA – felt it necessary to further strengthen the power of the Act by adding constitutional amendments to its foundation and calling for an outright ban of same-sex marriage rights.
With Obama in 2008 came a breath of fresh air – his rhetoric established the need for a review of current law in the hopes that same-sex marriage would, over the course of his Administration, become a federal and legal right to all US citizens. The words ‘discrimination’ and ‘ethicality’ were used in speeches made by Obama in subsequent years and, in 2009, three Democratic Congressmen and women introduced an act to repeal DOMA; the Respect of Marriage Act. This bill, supported by many of the legislators who signed worked on DOMA, gained nationwide support amongst the public and LGBT community but has not, as of yet, been voted into law; the latest proposed version was put forward by the 114th Congress this month.
Across the Atlantic in the United Kingdom, same-sex marriage have had identical legal recognition as heterosexual marriages since a law passed by Parliament in July 2013 came into effect. But still, today, LGBT rights vary tremendously around the world.
In some African and Middle Eastern countries in which religion plays a larger part, homosexuality is regarded as either a sin or, in the extreme, a criminal offence, punishable with variable jail sentences. But the tides are turning. Just last month, a TV crew headed by Mona Iraqi received widespread criticism for storming into a Cairo bathhouse on the back of a police raid, capturing footage of some of the bathhouse users as they were arrested and removed from the building. Homosexuality in Egypt is an incredibly contentious issue – not illegal, but still frowned upon by older generations and those in power.
So it was with a sigh of relief that this week, the Supreme Court announced that it would consider same-sex marriage laws at a federal level, effectively offering the chance for an all-states ruling on same-sex marriage recognition. The cases up for discussion, as identified in a Guardian article will be discussed in April and a decision is likely to be reached by late June. This is a chance for the LGBT community to strengthen their grassroots movement and work on the existing support within communities and states to bring about equality for all. Now is the time for support, now is the time for action.
With 3 months until initial debate within in the Supreme Court, the clock is ticking; could 2015 be the year in which same-sex marriages become legally recognised the US over?
To find out more information about same-sex marriage in individual states, please visit Freedom To Marry.