One year since Obergefell v. Hodges

June 26th marks the anniversary of several important Supreme Court rulings in LGBTQ history. Most obvious and fresh in the minds of many around the world is June 26th, 2015, when the Supreme Court handed down its holding in Obergefell v. Hodges, and thus extended the right to marry to same-sex couples to all 50 U.S. states. The ruling came after decades of work by millions, from individual court cases to dinner table conversations to efforts big and small to raise the visibility of queer Americans.

But Obergefell isn’t the only seminal Supreme Court ruling to come out on this day. On June 26th 2013, the court held the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional. DOMA was a 1996 federal law that prohibited the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages that were recognized at the state level. Its practical effect was to deny things such as spousal Social Security benefits to gay and lesbian couples who were legally wed in their home states. DOMA was enacted well before any American state recognized same-sex marriage (that was Massachusetts in 2004), but was passed in a time when the specter of such an occurrence horrified enough Americans to see it passed.

On the very same day, the court also dismissed an appeal of a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision (Perry v. Brown) that held California’s Proposition 8 invalid. The ballot initiative, called “Prop Hate” by its detractors, was a voter-approved initiative that halted a brief period in 2008 where same-sex marriage was legalized by the California Supreme Court.

10 years before that, the Supreme Court struck down criminal prohibitions against sodomy in Lawrence v. Texas on June 26th, 2003. The case focused on a Texas law that made it a misdemeanor to engage in “deviate sexual intercourse” with someone of the same sex. While the plaintiff was only fined $200 for a by then rarely-enforced law, the decriminalization of the sex lives of gay people was an important milestone in LGBT equality.

So raise a glass folks and celebrate: June 26th represents several important rulings in the history of American jurisprudence with respect to LGBTQ citizens.


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