Last week, the seventh anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling that legalized same-sex marriage across the United States was banned in more than a dozen states and gave gay and lesbian married couples the same rights and legal protections that married heterosexuals enjoy.
The months and years that led to the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges experienced a passionate outcry from LGBTQ rights opponents, arguing that same-sex marriage would destroy the traditional family and the institution of marriage itself.
In the years since, it has been difficult to find evidence to support such dire predictions. U.S. marriage rates dropped long before same-sex couples were given the right to marry. To the extent that the trend has continued since 2015, researchers point to a slew of economic and sociological factors other than same-sex unions.
Meanwhile, a growing number of gay and lesbian people have embraced marriage. The US Census Bureau’s most recent data, from 2020, showed that more than 570,000 households belong to same-sex married couples, equivalent to more than 1.1 million people.
“We finally have the same rights as other couples who love each other,” Jill Spragio, an administrator at an information technology company in New Orleans, Louisiana, told VOA. Spragio and her partner were married the year before the Obergefell ruling, in Illinois, where same-sex marriage was already legal.
“But we were not recognized as married in Louisiana until the Supreme Court’s ruling in 2015,” she said. “We just wanted to be treated the same as our heterosexual married friends. Now, if one of us gets sick, the hospital can not throw us out of the room, and we can make decisions for each other as spouses. We can be entitled to our partner. “I know it does not sound like much, but it is.”
Opponents of the decision, however, insisting on allowing gay marriage has been harmed.
“My concern is that it has obviously damaged the institution of marriage and families,” Mathew Staver, chairwoman of the Liberty Council, told VOA, “but it has also damaged our Constitution. It is a decision without legal foundation, and a house built. on sand will eventually fall. “
Marriage as stability
Molly Bourg, who works in the food and beverage industry in New Orleans, was a senior at university at the time of Obergefell v. Hodges. Bourg, who prefers non-gender-specific pronouns, said the ruling changed their minds about what might have been in their lives.
“I only came out as gay after the decision,” Bourg told VOA. “Once something is legal, it feels more socially acceptable. Before that, however, I felt, ‘Why am I sitting out there just being rejected by the community in which I grew up?'”
Bourg remembers, for example, how they watched their siblings rely on their family for support during high school and college breaks.
“When I was having my first grief in the meantime, I remember I had to struggle through it alone because I was too scared to tell anyone,” they said, noting that this is just one of the many ways life is for someone in the LGBTQ community was more difficult.
Today, however, with same-sex marriages being legal across the country, things feel more normal, Bourg said.
“My partner and I, like everyone else, can talk about life and marriage plans two or three years later,” they said. “It feels safe and homely, and I like having that security. I think anyone would.”
Increasing vocal minority
Polls show Americans increasingly support same-sex marriage. According to Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs poll, conducted in May, 71% of Americans say they support the right of gay and lesbian people to marry. This is a record high, compared to 70% the year before.
When the Gallup poll was first conducted in 1996, only 27% of the country supported same-sex marriage, indicating a steady shift in public perception of such unions — even among Republican voters.
“I hope they have all the rights of a traditional family,” said Jillian Dani, a Republican voter from Merritt Island, Florida, who added that she believed the U.S. Constitution left it to the states to decide on such matters.
The Gallup poll revealed one group that still opposes gay marriage: Americans who say they attend church weekly. Only 40% of regular churchgoers say they are in favor of same-sex commitments.
“I do not think Obergefell had any effect on the institution of marriage and it had no effect on me,” said Judi Thompson, a self-proclaimed supporter of former President Donald Trump of Garland, Texas. “I just think the decision was disgusting, to be honest. According to God’s law, marriage is between a man and a woman, and I would like to see the Supreme Court correct its earlier decision.”
Preparing for battle
The Supreme Court recently hinted that Thompson could make her wish come true.
In last month’s controversial decision on abortion, the Supreme Court’s energetic Conservative majority overturned nearly 50 years of precedent and ruled that individual states can decide whether to allow or ban the procedure.
Many LGBTQ people and their allies are worried that the Supreme Court will not stop abortion. They fear the same reasoning used to Roe v. Wade, overturning the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling that abortions are legal nationwide will be used to reverse decisions that have extended rights to other groups, too.
Judge Clarence Thomas supported this theory in his agreement last month to overthrow Roe.
“In future cases, we need to reconsider all of this court’s substantive due process precedents,” he wrote, “including Griswold, Lawrence and Obergefell.”
The Supreme Court’s 1965 ruling in Griswold v. Connecticut set out the right of married couples to use contraception. In 2003, in Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court scrapped state laws across America that penalized sodomy.
“I think it’s a matter of when – not when – they start coming to us, one case at a time,” said James Knoblach, a member of the LGBTQ community and vice president of public relations and digital marketing company in New York. . “You have seen it in Thomas’ opinion, and I will not put it past this illegal court to go so far as to criminalize homosexuality in their attempt to turn our democracy into a theocracy.”
Bourg of New Orleans agreed.
“Thomas did not just mention Obergefell,” they said. “He also mentioned Lawrence against Texas. They’re not just looking to deny us marriage, they’re trying to criminalize what’s going on in the bedroom, and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has publicly said he will defend an opponent. -sodomy law if it was brought to him. “
The LGBTQ community’s fears are well-founded, said Staver of the Liberty Counsel.
“Turning Obergefell around is inevitable,” he said.
It will fall, Staver believes, because of what he calls an “unfounded decision by Judges to enforce their own ideology that is not enshrined in the Constitution,” but also because of the damage he feels it does to the families in America.
“There is no constitutional right to same-sex marriage, and therefore Obergefell is doomed,” he said. “And that’s a good thing, because same-sex marriage permanently deprives children of a mother or father, and it casts a negative view on the absent sex.”
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, “however, no legal research has shown that same-sex couples are any more or at all less harmful than heterosexual couples.”
The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry confirmed in a 2013 study that “current research shows that children with gay and lesbian parents do not differ from children with heterosexual parents in their emotional development or in their relationships with peers and adults.”
Yet many in the LGBTQ community are preparing for the worst.
“You could feel it in last month’s Pride Parade,” explains Knoblach of New York City, referring to the LGBTQ celebrations held annually through the month of June. “There was a defiance in the crowd that you don’t usually feel – a feeling that there is a fight going on and we are not going to back down.”
Outside parades, individuals like Bourg and their partner are also preparing.
“We have already discussed general options if Obergefell and other decisions are reversed,” Bourg said. “I have no doubt if that is the case, then my home state of Louisiana will ban same-sex marriage.”
This would make a very difficult decision for Bourg and many LGBTQ people like them.
“Louisiana is my home. My family is here. And if the Supreme Court stays in this direction, I’ll have to choose between my family and my home, or have a chance to marry the person I love. It is … heartbreaking. “