Supreme Court Decides to Clean House on LGBT Right to Marry: Immigration Equal Rights to Same-Sex Couples May Soon Be Nationwide

A house divided against itself cannot stand.“~ Abraham Lincoln

A historical transformation is upon us.  On January 16, 2015, the Supreme Court granted review to a string of state decisions in United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.  The Sixth Circuit decided that several states’ prohibitions on same-sex marriage are legal.  Those states include Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky and Michigan.

Three months ago, in October of 2014, the Supreme Court did just the opposite.  It denied review to those states that insisted on their bans against same-sex marriage, whose bans were held to be illegal by the courts in their own states.  By doing so, the Supreme Court effectively endorsed the state court decisions striking down such bans as unconstitutional.  For decades now, since Bower v. Hardwick and Lawrence v. Texas, up to United States v. Windsor, 133 S. Ct. 2675 (2013), the highest Court of the United States struggled with the issue of gay rights; it had conservatively indicated that the gay right to marry is a choice that lies with the individual states.

In DeBower v. Snyder, the Sixth Circuit exploited Supreme Court’s reluctance to decide on this issue by citing Windsor and stating: “Respect for democratic control over this traditional area of state expertise ensures that ‘a statewide deliberative process that enable[s] its citizens to discuss and weigh arguments for and against same-sex marriage’ can have free and reasonable rein.”

Certainly, by denying review in the cases that upheld gay marriage, the Supreme Court had likely hoped that the rest of the states would fall in line. However, the Sixth Circuit’s renegade decision has created a circuit-split that has brought the LGBT right to marry to the proverbial bridge that must be crossed.

Practically, if the Sixth Circuit decision is allowed to stand, it would divide the country into gay-marriage legal and gay-marriage banned states.  Thus, a LGBT couple can have a valid same-sex marriage in California with all the ensuing rights, but lose all the state-regulated rights, like medical disclosure or step-parental rights if they moved to Tennessee.  In terms of LGBT immigration, this divide creates an untenable and flawed work-around, where a same-sex couple who reside in a state that has banned gay marriage must go and marry in a state that has legalized gay marriage before they can apply for federal benefits such as a green card.

However, by deciding to review DeBower v. Snyder, the Supreme Court has finally chosen to take a position on this issue.  Logically, as the Court had just endorsed the states court decisions that held in favor of the equal protection of gay marriage by denying review, it needed to do nothing more if it simply means to defer to the majority-rule or court decisions in each state.  By agreeing to review the decision, we anticipate that Supreme Court intends to mend the divide and mandate an America that consistently recognizes the same-sex right to marry as a fundamental, constitutional right of a citizen.

Historically, this is the potentially the greatest leap in civil rights since Loving v. Virginia in 1967 that upheld desegregation in interracial marriages.

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