In a landmark decision Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage nationwide, finally allowing the word “marriage” to stand alone.
It’s a basic right that was a long time coming and has been so powerfully urged that it at this point was just a matter of time before it finally happened. It’s a historical relief.
In Obergefell v. Hodges, along with three other cases, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Constitution guarantees a right to marriage regardless of sexual orientation or gender. The ruling states, under the Fourteenth Amendment, states are required to provide marriage licenses to same-sex couples and recognize marriages that occurred in other states.
In the majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote same-sex couples “ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law” in addition to his acknowledgement of the respect they have for marriage as an institution. While marriage equality is a step in promising “equal dignity,” full equality is a long road ahead of us.
Social change goes hand in hand with public opinion. As noted by the Pew Research Center, support for same-sex marriage in the U.S. has spiked in the past 10 years, as only 27 percent of people favored it in 1996, whereas 54 percent did last year.
While this ruling proves that change is possible and a more inclusionary society is in reach, the LGBT community will continue to face intolerance after many of the nation’s couples begin to say “I do.”
For one, the ruling itself doesn’t necessarily ensure churches and religious institutions won’t still discriminate against same-sex couples to protect their religious freedom. As the New York Times reported, opponents, including the governors of Texas and Louisiana, wasted no time in arguing for exemptions from discrimination laws the same day the ruling was made.
Yet, as addressed in a Vox column, a majority of states still lack basic civil rights protections for the LGBT community, and those that are in place vary widely.
Up to 33 states don’t fully protect LGBT people, as many state protections are not trans-inclusive and not all public accommodations prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination. While some states prohibit discrimination against public employees, others don’t do so for private ones. In some areas, LGBT protections only exist at a limited, city-wide level.
Florida lacks statewide protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. As of now, 10 counties, including Hillsborough County, and 19 cities do have one or both of these protections, according to Equality Florida.
While the ruling allows unions to be rightfully recognized, the fight for LGBT rights needs to go further so that getting fired or evicted for how one identifies is unthinkable. In time, it will be.
In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. It took over a decade for this to happen nationally. As President Barack Obama stated in his address at the Rose Garden, arriving at this moment happened in “small increments.”
While the ruling doesn’t nearly mark the end of the fight for LGBT rights, it is momentum for anti-discrimination protections to be fully realized and is a reminder that the country’s social atmosphere can and will change.