Since October 1971, same-sex couples across America have been battling the traditional views of marriage that were pronounced to be between a man and a woman at the court ruling of Baker vs. Nelson. After this court case, Maryland became the first state to legally banned marriage of same-sex couples, enforcing that this union should only be allowed between a man and a woman. Since this date members of the LGBT community and its allies have been trying to appeal state laws to be able to one day share the same rights as heterosexual couples.
Couples of the opposite sex share 1,138 rights and protections under the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), signed into effect under former President Bill Clinton. These rights give heterosexual couples the benefits of shared social security, hospital visitation, immigration, joint tax filing, right to divorce, automatic joint parenting, among many others. Same-sex couples have been denied these rights and many have suffered not only from unfair treatment but also from receiving equal rights given by the United States Constitution.
In California, after many LGBT communities battled for same-sex couples freedom to marry, in May of 2008, the state ruled that it was unconstitutional to deny homosexual couples the right to this union. However, in November on the same year Proposition 8 (Prop 8) was passed by more than 50 percent of California voters, amending the constitution and overturning the short-lived victory of same-sex couples right to marry.
The passing of Proposition 8 sparked the initiation a new campaign to promote marriage equality through education and the use of social media. This campaign started by photographer Adam Bouska went on to be known as the NOH8 Campaign. The new movement became a silent protest, as many same-sex couples, and those in support of the mission, would pose with duct tape over their mouths and the NOH8 campaign symbol on their cheek, as a representation of resistance against unequal rights. The mission to spread the word across the nation became successful through NOH8. More than 30,000 people including politicians, athletes, known celebrities and everyday people have expressed their support for same-sex marriage through the campaign’s portraits.
The constant battle for same-sex marriage continues to soar throughout the U.S. In June 26, 2013 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled Prop 8 and Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, unconstitutional. This was a great victory for many same-sex couples, including those serving in the armed forces. The Secretary of Defense stated that since DOMA’s overturn, as long a couple has a certificate of marriage valid in the state where it was given, it must receive the same benefits, regardless of sexual orientation. Although not all states are onboard with legalizing same-sex marriage, the United States continues to make progress towards equality. As of June of 2014, 19 states are allowing for same-sex couples to marry. The last state to take down the ban on same-sex marriage was Wisconsin, when the U.S District Court ruled on Friday, June 6, that the ban for same-sex couples to marry in the state was unconstitutional. The fight for equal rights will continue as a constant battle, as long as it is necessary for same-sex couples to be granted equals rights and to not be treated as second class citizens.
Opinion by Marcia Villavicencio