June 26: An Important Date in LGBTQ History

June 26th is an important date in LGBTQ history. Four landmark cases from the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) have been decided on that day.

Obergefell v. Hodges

June 26, 2017 marks the second anniversary of the SCOTUS decision in Obergefell.  It was indeed a historical day when marriage equality became the law of the land. All married same-sex couples in the U.S. now have all the legal rights and protections of marriage that married heterosexual couples do.  The list of marital benefits is long and includes such things as inheritance rights, social security benefits, dower rights, medical decision making, being listed on the deceased spouse’s death certificate, etc.

Some derivative benefits have resulted from the decision as well.  For example, step-parent adoption is now an option in Ohio for married same-sex couples with children.  In addition, same-sex married couples can now get divorced in Ohio. Prior to Obergefell, there were couples who were legally married in another state but could not get divorced in their home state of Ohio.

United States v. Windsor

Two years earlier, SCOTUS ruled that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited the federal government from recognizing legal gay marriages, was unconstitutional. The federal government could no longer discriminate against married same-sex couples for purposes of determining federal benefits and protections.

On that same day, SCOTUS issued a separate 5-4 decision which effectively allowed gay marriage to resume in California in Hollingsworth v. Perry.

Lawrence v. Texas

On June 26, 2003, SCOTUS struck down so-called "sodomy laws" that banned gay sexual activity. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion in all three SCOTUS cases, wrote that the Texas law did not advance a “legitimate state interest which can justify its intrusion into the personal and private life of the individual.” 

Pavan v. Smith

The most recent case from SCOTUS was issued on June 26, 2017. SCOTUS ruled that Arkansas authorities must list both same-sex parents on their child's birth certificate, stating that the refusal by Arkansas to do so infringed on the Obergefell decision. Ohio has been listing both same-sex parents on birth certificates since Obergefell, as long as the parents were legally married at the time their child was born. However, this is a big win for same-sex parents in Arkansas and potentially other states which have been refusing to list both parents on birth certificates. 

There is still work to do.

The two years since Obergefell has not been all sunbeams and rainbows, however. The numerous pieces of discriminatory legislation being introduced in many areas of the country are examples of the backlash that have followed the SCOTUS ruling.

Indeed, there is still much work to be done. In Ohio and many other states in our country, a person can be fired, denied housing, and refused service because he/she is LGBTQ. The fight to change the hearts and minds of our co-workers, neighbors, family members, legislators, and community leaders continues. We need to make sure that #LoveWins!