Marriage Equality Takes Center Stage

Op-Ed

The Pauli Murray LGBTQ+ Bar Association issued the following statement on marriage equality during the week of Oct. 5:

This week, many of us are wondering if our marriages are in jeopardy after two Supreme Court justices re-stated their objection to marriage equality, which was decided in Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito believe a person’s religious beliefs should allow them to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

However, behind the headlines, LGBTQ legal experts have noted that Thomas and Alito have always opposed marriage equality, so this is not a new position for them. In addition, it is notable that Chief Justice John Roberts, who was against marriage equality in Obergefell, as well as the two Trump appointees, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, did not join Thomas and Alito. If they had, they could have gone ahead and taken up the religious beliefs’ argument. They did not. In fact, Gorsuch wrote the Bostock opinion earlier this summer that gave job protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity and Roberts joined that decision.

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Also, there are no current cases before the Supreme Court challenging marriage equality directly.

Furthermore, now that marriage equality is the law of the land, some experts believe no one wants to return to the patchwork of marriage in some states and not in others — this is not just queer couples but businesses as well.

Even if something happens at the Supreme Court, North Carolina marriages will still be valid. North Carolina gained marriage equality by court decisions that were before, and separate from, the Supreme Court case.

In fact, it would be highly unusual for current valid marriages now in place to be undone.

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But we can’t rest. There are steps we can take to protect full marriage equality. Take part and vote in the presidential election and also — and importantly — vote in the Senate races and state races all the way down the ballot, including state judges and local officials. The Senate races are particularly important because a portion of the Senate’s job is to serve as a check on the president, as well as to confirm (or not) Supreme Court justices.

You can also donate to candidates you support and volunteer for their campaigns. You can drive people to the polls. You can encourage friends to vote. You have power. Use it.

Organizations such as Equality North Carolina, Human Rights Campaign and North Carolina Association of Women Attorneys, as well as other organizations, have voter guides.

Cristal Robinson is the board president of the Pauli Murray LGBTQ+ Bar Association. For more information on the organization, visit lgbtqbarnc.com.

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