With the Supreme Court slated to make rulings on gay rights issues that have the potential to set historic precedent this spring, students across the country have been vocal on the matters.
In an announcement earlier this week, the high court determined it will examine the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which federally delineates the act of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
It will also grapple with California’s Proposition 8 — a ballot proposal that banned homosexual marriage in the state — which if overturned “holds the most potential for a sweeping national precedent,” according to USA Today.
The decision to add the cases to the docket comes on the heels of mounting public opinion over the past decade that is clearly in favor of gay rights. According to data from the Pew Research Center gathered in April 2012, 47% of polled subjects were strongly in favor of gay marriage, an uptick from 39% in 2008 and 31% in 2004.
The percentage of individuals in strong opposition also declined, from 60% in 2004 to 43% in 2012, according to Pew.
Additionally, nine states and the District of Columbia currently have laws that allow same-sex marriage, following the passage of ballot proposals in Maryland, Washington and Maine in the November election.
While University of Michigan student Ben Rogers said he commends state-level efforts to increase rights for gay individuals, he believes it is ultimately the responsibility of the federal government to step up and protect civil liberties.
“Gay rights are a form of human rights,” Rogers said. “We should not allow states to arbitrate our human rights. Rather, we should look to our courts and our federal government to decide what rights we hold as humans and American citizens.”
He added that the Supreme Court is now in a pivotal position and “poised to lend its voice” to making critical changes in federal policy regarding same-sex marriage and benefits for individuals in domestic partnerships.
Dawn Mere-Ama, left, and her partner Phebe Jewell pose for a snapshot after receiving their marriage license in King County Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012, in Seattle, Washington.
“I believe the court’s decision will have a large impact on the momentum that the marriage equality movement has accumulated in the past few years,” Rogers said.
Opponents of gay marriage have expressed concern over threats to DOMA and the sanctity of traditional forms of marriage, but say the discussion will continue no matter the ruling.
“The majority of Americans who have voted to protect marriage as the unity of a man and a woman are never going to go away,” Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, told USA Today.
Priya Ghose, a student at Occidental College in Los Angeles, California, echoed Rogers and that increased rights for homosexual Americans is a crucial issue that transcends party lines by ensuring the protection of civil liberties and equality for all Americans.
“No matter who you are, you know and care about someone who identifies as LGBT. They may not be publicly out yet, but they’re there … One day, your son or daughter may be queer, or perhaps a grandchild. At some point this issue becomes personal to everyone,” Ghose said.
Estrella Lucero, also a student at Occidental College, said she is hopeful that growing public opinion will help foster implementation of federal gay rights policy.
“This country does have a strong history of discrimination and marginalizing groups of people who stand outside of the ‘norm,’ but we’ve also seen that the U.S. has slowly marched towards equality, thanks to the work of dedicated activists who want to bend the arc of history towards justice,” Lucero said.
Billy Price, a student at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and co-president of the school’s Spectrum Center — a national organization dedicated to advocating for gay rights and raising awareness — said the Supreme Court’s decision to consider the cases is a “giant milestone” in advancing progressive policies.
However, he noted that while he has been happy to see a greater push toward enacting non-discrimination laws within states like Ohio, there is still substantial progress to be made moving forward.
“It’s almost unbelievable that I could still be legally fired or denied housing within the state of Ohio simply because I’m a gay man, but that’s where we are,” Price said.
He added: “Huge numbers of Americans have members of the LGBT community in their friend groups, and generally people want to see their friends and loved ones happy.”
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