SMU Experts:
Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage rulings are civil rights victories

 

June 27, 2013

DALLAS (SMU) — In two of the most anticipated legal decisions this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 26 to overturn a key section of the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and let stand a lower court ruling overturning California’s contentious Proposition 8.

In overturning DOMA, which denied benefits to gay couples who married legally in their states, the high court’s ruling in U.S. v. Windsor means that the federal government must recognize gay marriages deemed legal by 12 states and the District of Columbia.  In dismissing an appeal of California’s Proposition 8 (Hollingsworth v. Perry), the justices ruled that same-sex marriage could resume in California.

SMU experts weighed in on the decisions:

POLITICAL EXPERT: OUR NATION REMAINS DEEPLY DIVIDED ON THIS QUESTION

Matthew WilsonMatthew Wilson, Associate Professor of Political Science, said:

"The big picture is that our nation remains deeply divided on this question.  Both Court decisions yesterday were 5-4, and polls still consistently show a near 50-50 split in public opinion about same-sex marriage.  For now, the Court's actions leave this as a state-by-state matter, meaning that we are likely to see significantly different approaches to marriage in the Northeast and West Coast than we see in the South, the Great Plains, and most of the Mountain West.  As a practical matter, the next big question will be whether the Court forces states like Texas to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.  I suspect that this will be litigated in the next couple of years."

Wilson specializes in the politics and voting behavior of religious voters, as well as public opinion, elections, religion and politics, and political psychology.

THEOLOGICAL EXPERT:
IF YOU THINK THE BIBLICAL VIEW OF MARRIAGE IS ONE MAN WITH ONE WOMAN, YOU'RE WRONG

William B. Lawrence, Dean of Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist UniversityWilliam B. Lawrence, Dean of SMU's Perkins School of Theology

"It is the law of The United Methodist Church that a minister of the denomination is not permitted to conduct same sex marriages but it is also a Social Principle of the church that homosexual persons are persons of sacred worth who should receive the benefits of the ministries of the church. Some pastors and lay leaders find that church law and that church social principle to be in direct conflict." Read more.

Lawrence is a recognized expert on United Methodism and American culture, and United Methodist history and doctrine. He frequently comments on the intersection of religion and culture.

LEGAL EXPERT: DOMA RULING FREES BENEFITS FOR GAY COUPLES

Jessica Dixon WeaverJessica Dixon Weaver, Assistant Professor in SMU’s Dedman School of Law, called June 26 “a monumental day for civil rights.”

“U.S. v. Windsor is a definite win for the same-sex marriage movement because it knocks down the federal government’s authority to define marriage as only between a man and a woman,” Weaver says. “The ruling relied on principles of the 10th and Fifth Amendments to say that same-sex marriages cannot be deemed ‘lesser’ than other federal marriages. Most importantly, it makes available to gay couples more than 1,100 federal laws, programs and benefits, including family leave, Social Security survivor benefits and immigration rights. The battle in the states continues, and most likely will evolve over time since the vast majority of the millennial generation supports same-sex marriage.”

Also see Weaver's television interviews Wednesday. video icon

Weaver’s research and scholarship focus on the analysis of current laws and policy practices in the child protection and juvenile justice systems and their impact on children and families.  She also writes about the intersection of race, gender, and family law.

HUMAN RIGHTS LEADER:
HIGH COURT’S NARROW SUPPORT
FOR GAY MARRIAGE ‘GREAT VICTORY’ THAT REFLECTS HOSTILITY

Issue remains ‘fire bell in the night’ for civil rights activists

Rick HalperinRick Halperin, director of SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program, called the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act a great victory, but is disturbed that the issue was so narrowly supported by the court and so bitterly contested.

Quoting a phrase Thomas Jefferson’s used in 1820 in reaction to the Missouri Compromise, Halperin said the court’s 5-4 ruling “remains the fire bell in the night for human rights.”  He warned that same-sex couples would continue to be confronted by a wall of opposition.

“From a human rights sense it’s a great decision,” Halperin said. “It upholds for that group of people the basic truth that they are entitled to their inherent human dignity. What is sad about the decision is that it passed by the narrowest margins.

“It is an ominous warning that the court remains antagonistic and hostile to basic human rights,” Halperin said. “The Supreme Court remains content for people to live marginalized lives that fall short of their inherent rights as guaranteed by the United Nations’ Universal Declaration on Human Rights.” 

Halperin has held many leadership positions in human rights and social justice organizations, including Amnesty International USA, for which, during his more than 40-year affiliation, he’s served as chair of the board of directors three times. He also has served on the board of directors for the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, the Center for Survivors of Torture, the International Rescue Committee and the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.


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