Editorial: Same-sex marriage laws promote equality, liberty

By Pitt News Staff

Progress is sometimes slow and arduous, especially when dealing with people’s deep-set… Progress is sometimes slow and arduous, especially when dealing with people’s deep-set beliefs and convictions. So it is more than a little surprising that some of the most substantial progress toward civil rights for same-sex couples should come about in a period of less than a week.

Last Friday, the Iowa Supreme Court rejected as unconstitutional a state law restricting marriage to a union between a man and a woman by upholding a lower court’s ruling on the law. And on Tuesday, the Vermont legislature voted to override Gov. Jim Douglas’ veto of a bill that would permit gay marriages in the state, making the bill a law.

If there’s anything to be said here, it’s congratulations to these two states. These moves could well mark a turning point in the general sentiment toward gay marriage in this country.

Vermont was also the first state to allow civil unions between same-sex couples, which started in 2000, while Iowa was among the first states to allow interracial marriage and admit women into the state bar to practice law.

It’s difficult to imagine that there were once laws prohibiting these actions. But gay rights are a civil rights issue, and it’s almost impossible to argue that the laws against same-sex marriage are anything other than discriminatory.

But not only are these decisions a step forward for equality and civil rights in the United States, they’re also a refreshing reminder that there is still some measure of decency and common sense present in the legal system.

But there is still so much progress left to be made. Sure, the Iowa and Vermont decisions are huge steps in the direction of civil rights and equal justice, but there are still a vast number of hurdles to clear before same-sex marriages and civil unions are legal and recognized across the country.

For instance, the federal Defense of Marriage Act allows any state to ignore a same-sex marriage performed in another state. It also prohibits the federal government from treating any same-sex relationship as a marriage, even if it was legally performed and recognized within that state.

President Barack Obama’s administration has already pledged to repeal the law, but whether this attempt will be successful or will ever materialize is still unclear. The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review any cases challenging DOMA, leaving the future of the law in the air for now.

Individual state laws and constitutional amendments prohibiting gay marriage will have to come down one by one for the movement to gain ground — something that will likely happen with time, though how long it will take is impossible to say.

One thing is sure: If our society is going to place value on equality and fairness under law, then we really have no choice but to make same-sex marriages legal. Sexual orientation is already a protected classification under federal and most state laws, and discrimination against gays and lesbians is becoming increasingly difficult to justify from a legal standpoint.

We have no doubt that at some point in the future, same-sex marriages will be legal across the country, in no small part’ because of the efforts in Vermont, Iowa and other states. The only thing left to do is to keep this progress moving toward the ultimate goal of equality and fairness for all U.S. citizens in all aspects of their lives.