Cheers of “DOMA is dead” could be heard in front of the Supreme Court Wednesday in Washington, D.C., when the court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was ruled unconstitutional by a vote of 5-4.
President Bill Clinton signed DOMA into law in 1996.
According to the Associated Press, gay rights activists argued the law improperly denied same-sex spouses the same federal benefits as their herterosexual counterparts.
According to Ole Miss Law School graduate Jesse Kelley, Bill Clinton has since said that his intention was never to create two separate kinds of marriage.
“I think (Justice) Ginsberg said that DOMA was trying to make gay marriage like the skim milk marriage and I think that’s a pretty good way to explain it,” Kelley said. “By ruling DOMA unconstitutional, every right and benefit that heterosexual couples receive in marriage — in a state that recognizes same sex marriage — same sex couples will now receive those same rights.”
Adam Blackwell, a senior public policy major at Ole Miss, was in D.C. when the Supreme Court’s ruling came down.
“The mood was really exciting and hopeful,” Blackwell said. “To be honest, the ruling was pretty predictable.”
Blackwell said to him it seems like younger generations are more accepting of marital rights.
“The only thing that’s firm today is DOMA,” Kelley said. “It’s unconstitutional.”
“People who were around when civil rights was a prevalent issue — it’s still fresh to them,” Blackwell said. “I think looking back, a lot of them wish they hadn’t been on the side they were on.”
Steff Thomas, a junior journalism major, said this issue reminds her of the civil rights movement as well.
“I think this is eye opening,” Thomas said. “Everyone is realizing that people are people and that love is love.”
For Thomas, an Indiana native, the ruling hits close to home.
“My two best friends and my sister are gay and being in Indiana they can’t get married,” Thomas said. “I know this meant a lot to them and that this is just the first step.”
CJ Jenkins, a senior civil engineering and public policy major, said the Supreme Court made the right decision but for the wrong reason.
“In the Constitution, congress has no right or jurisdiction over marriage,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins said he sees two possible paths for the future of making gay marriage legal. According to him, Congress could amend the United States Constitution to say that the government shall not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.
“I think that’s what will most likely happen, though the states should legalize it on their own,” Jenkins said.
Blackwell thinks this is just the beginning.
“In the years to come there needs to be a grassroots movement, and there needs to be conversations in the home about the issues,” Blackwell said.
The historical context of the Supreme Court’s decision is not yet clear, but both Kelley and Thomas think this is a historic day and will be read in textbooks in the decades to come.
“This is where it will begin for gay rights activists,” Kelley said. “It’s just like the adage about civil rights, ‘You don’t want to be caught on the wrong side of history.’”
“Marriage equality is inevitable and it should happen,” Jenkins said. “I don’t think the political climate is right at the moment for a sweeping change, but it will be legal across the board in 30 or 40 years at the most.”
In a separate ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down California’s controversial Proposition 8 on the basis that it did not follow procedure on its way to the Supreme Court.
According to the Associated Press, same sex marriage licenses can be issued beginning in 25 days. The Supreme Court’s ruling regarding Proposition 8 is not final and the statute can make its way through the system again and eventually end on the Supreme Court’s table once more.