Two weeks after the Supreme Court heard arguments in a pair of cases related to gay marriage, members of a panel at Princeton’s Every Voice conference expressed confidence that marriage equality was on the horizon — but agreed that the fight against LGBT discrimination would persist.
Marriage is “still the language we use to describe a relationship to a partner, a way to tell our friends, society, parents, and each other that this is a lifetime commitment,” said Stephen Macedo *87, the Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Politics. “It is the most powerful mark of civil equality for gays.”
The court is expected to release decisions on the two cases in June. In the first case, proponents of gay marriage are challenging a state ban in California, known as Proposition 8. The second case is a challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman for purposes of obtaining federal benefits.
Panelist Anthony Romero ’87, executive director of the ACLU, said that a victory in the DOMA case could “fundamentally change the culture and landscape of our country.” The ACLU is representing plaintiff Edith Windsor, who inherited her wife’s property but faced a large tax bill that would not be levied upon a spouse in an opposite-sex marriage. “When we win this case, it’s going to be phenomenal,” said Romero, the first openly gay man to head the ACLU. Not only would Windsor win back $360,000 but gay Americans would receive survival benefits for spouses who served in the military, military housing, and medical and tax benefits.
The third speaker, Hayley Gorenberg ’87, deputy legal director at Lambda Legal, a gay-rights organization, noted that gay people would not be the only beneficiaries of a favorable Court ruling: Transgender people, single parents, and children supporting parents all could gain.
But she suggested that a Court victory would not end the fight for equal rights, pointing to the need for a “comprehensive nondiscrimination law” for all LGBT people, among other things. “We have an explosion of critical LGBT ... issues across our rainbow,” she said.