Following recent appeals made by Kentucky and three other states, the issue of whether it is constitutional to ban same-sex marriage in the U.S. may finally be heard by the nation’s highest judicial power, the Supreme Court.
On Nov. 6, in a 2-1 vote, the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the right for Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky to deny same-sex marriage. Following this ruling, all four states affected have since sent appeals for their cases to be heard by the Supreme Court. Kentucky and Michigan joined Tennessee and Ohio in doing so Monday afternoon.
The Sixth Circuit Court’s ruling is the first to uphold states’ rights to ban gay marriage since the Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act last summer. This decision has been preceded by more than 30 similar cases where same-sex bans were found to be unconstitutional by courts in separate states.
Jody Cofer Randall, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender program coordinator, said the Sixth Court’s ruling may have been a strategic move by same-sex marriage proponents.
“(Supreme Court Justice) Ginsberg said the quickest way to put marriage back before the court is to have a lower federal court rule in opposition to the landslide of what all these other courts are ruling,” Cofer Randall said. “If you want a bad ruling (on same-sex marriage), appeal it in the Sixth Circuit and that will get you the one opposing case you need.”
If the Supreme Court does hear any of the cases put before it, Cofer Randall said the effect of legalizing same-sex marriage nationally may not be in favor of the LGBT rights movement.
He said many small organizations have struggled in the wake of marriage being legalized in their state. As same-sex marriage has become the poster-issue for the movement, many organizations have seen a lack in financial and other support due to their state’s legalization.
“In states that are ‘post-marriage,’ LGBT groups are trying to figure out what does that mean for how we fundraise,” Cofer Randall said. “How do we meet our budget every year, how do we keep people engaged when everything they see in the media about the LGBT movement is something we are already finished with?”
Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign, a Kentucky-based LGBT rights advocacy organization, said he is not afraid of this happening to his organization which primarily deals with job, housing and public accommodation discrimination.
He said while the issue of same-sex marriage has taken central stage in the media and in the LGBT rights movement, it has broadened and deepened the national dialogue about people’s rights.
In a recent survey conducted by the Fairness Campaign, while 83 percent of respondents supported anti-discrimination laws in Kentucky, 50 percent also responded that they weren’t aware it was still legal in many parts of the state to fire a person for being homosexual.
Lisa Blanford, sophomore from Owensboro, Ky., said she was surprised to hear LGBT-identifying persons could still lose their jobs in Kentucky becuase of their sexual orientation.
“Workplaces are supposed to have non-discrimination policies, right?” she said. “And that’s discrimination.”
Katie Hayes, junior from Murray, said she too was not aware this practice was still allowed in the Commonwealth.
“In this day and age I think we should be further on than we are,” Hayes said. “We’ve gotten past racial discrimination for the most part and I know we’re still working on gender equality and all that, but not discriminating against others is such a natural thing that it shouldn’t be an issue any more.”
Hartman said while a win in the Supreme Court would be beneficial, there are many more issues that need addressing as well.
“(The issue of same-sex marriage) has helped highlight the stark contrast in people’s rights,” Hartman said. “Marriage protections are great and will go a long way, but we’re talking about a totality of needs. We’re talking about a lot of folks just being able to put food on their table and who can’t get a job. We’re talking about filling basic needs for a large segment of our population so they are not treated as second-class citizens.”
Story by Ben Manhanke, Staff writer