In Windsor, the Court struck down section 3 of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prohibited any federal recognition of same-sex marriages entered into at the state level. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy held that the law had “the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity,” and was therefore an unconstitutional deprivation of liberty.
“Today’s decision not only gives federal recognition and respect to the many married same-sex couples in the US,” said Graeme Reid, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) rights director of the at Human Rights Watch. “More fundamentally, it also affirms that LGBT people deserve fundamental rights and equal protection in all areas of the law.”
In Perry, the court dismissed an appeal by the proponents of Proposition 8, a state referendum passed in 2008 that revoked the right to marry for same-sex couples in California. A lower court ruling in 2010 struck down the referendum as a violation of the equality and liberty of same-sex couples, and California officials agreed. The ruling in Perry held that private citizens could not appeal that decision.
“For the past decade, same-sex couples in California have been on a legal and political rollercoaster,” Reid said. “Finally, today’s decision affirms the dignity of their relationships and the equal rights that all same-sex couples should be able to enjoy.”
While the Supreme Court’s decision is a critical step in the right direction, individual US states can still ban same-sex marriages, which means that human rights concerns are not fully addressed in these rulings, Human Rights Watch said.
“Today’s decision recognizes that same-sex marriages deserve the same federal rights, responsibilities, and recognition as heterosexual marriages,” Reid said. “Although this is a critical step, a great deal of work remains to be done.”
For more Human Rights Watch reporting on LGBT rights issues, please see: