SAN DIEGO , June 26, 2015 –The U.S. Supreme Court ruled interracial marriage was legal in 1967. Friday, it took the next important step, one decades overdue. In a 5-4 ruling, the court determined that all Americans have the legal right to marry, no matter their gender or sexual orientation.
It is a major victory in a long fight that has been working its way through lower courts since 2004, when Massachusetts became the first state permitting same-sex marriage. Prior to Friday’s ruling, 37 states and the District of Columbia recognized same-sex marriage. Thirteen states had stubbornly held out despite a groundswell of public support reaching record levels in every poll.
It will still take some time before every state shakes out the legal cobwebs and puts processes in place, and it will still take time for lawsuits to work their way through the civil court, likely to do with the right to avoid performing same-sex ceremonies or doing business with same-sex couples. After all, it took until November 2000 for Alabama to become the final state to formally remove the interracial marriage ban, 33 years after the Supreme Court declared these laws unconstitutional.
Thankfully, as Pride Month is celebrated in July in the United States, the legal system has finally ruled not only in favor of civil rights, but in favor of doing the right thing for the legal system itself.
Same-sex couples and their attorneys (like me) continued to deal with a crazy quilt of laws from state to state, wreaking havoc on families, keeping lawyers awake at night trying to figure out how to navigate common family law issues regarding marriage, divorce, child custody, support, medical decision-making, estate planning and taxation.
No matter your position, from a legal process point-of-view, the mish- mash of state laws created chaos and clogged up our courts at a great cost of time and money.
Those who would argue that civil unions can guarantee all the same rights afforded by marriage to same-sex couples are incorrect. If nothing else, having to go to an attorney to put into place the many protections the law gives to married couples is time-consuming and expensive.
Government treats with marriage as a civil issue, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruling made this abundantly clear. The government does not and should not interfere with the spiritual sanctification or blessing of marriage. Despite today’s ruling (and speaking as a person who deeply honors individual religious beliefs), this should never change, and it doesn’t need to. The law need not breach your individual personal beliefs over the way you wish to live, so long as it does not violate the civil rights of anyone else.
We can separate both legally and morally the religious or spiritual definition of matrimony, and the legal definition of a marriage under this country’s civil laws, and we are. The SCOTUS ruling is the first and more important, but not the final step in making the law uniform, applicable to all in all 50 states.
It won’t happen overnight, but let’s hope it doesn’t take 33 years to put all the details in place as with the laws governing interracial marriages. Courts won’t be clogged and families will be healthier and happier because fairness will exist.
And as I’ve been saying for a long time, we have plenty of other difficult issues to deal with. I am very happy to get this one off our plates. Let’s turn our attention to more difficult issues like curing childhood cancer, eradicating poverty and illiteracy, preventing bullying, eradicating racism, you get the idea.
In hindsight, we will some day shrug our shoulders and wonder, “what was the big deal, anyway?” This is my idea of taking pride in America.
Myra Chack Fleischer serves as lead counsel for Fleischer & Ravreby in Carlsbad, Calif., with a focus on divorce, property, custody and support, settlement agreements, mediation, asset division and family law appeals. Read more Legally Speaking in Communities Digital News. Follow Myra on Twitter: @LawyerMyra. Fleischer can be reached via Google +
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