UB discusses same-sex marriage amid potential landmark Supreme Court decision

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When New York State made same-sex marriage legal in 2011, Paris Canty and his then-boyfriend felt relieved. Although Canty, a senior psychology major and president of the UB LGBT Alliance, said he doesn’t plan on getting married anytime soon, it was nice to know that “your relationship can reach that next level one day.”

And now the United States Supreme Court may potentially make same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states.

The Supreme Court is currently reviewing Obergefell v. Hodges – a federal lawsuit that challenges same-sex marriage bans in Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee and Kentucky – and the Court will decide whether states have the right to ban gay marriage and to not recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. Although marriage equality is legal in 37 states, some states like North Dakota and Georgia have same-sex marriage bans, meaning a legally married same-sex couple’s marriage would not be recognized there.

The Court is predicted to make its decision on the case in June or July.

Rachael Hinkle, a professor in UB’s Department of Political Science, said that the argument for same-sex marriage is based on the Equal Protection Clause in the 14th Amendment that states no state can deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

“I think it’s nice to think about what we’re actually talking about,” Hinkle said. “Our Constitution guarantees that citizens get equal protection of the law, and that should mean something.”

Hinkle said although typically marriage is a matter left to the states, the Supreme Court has intervened in marriage laws in the past and cited the Supreme Court’s decision in Loving v. Virginia to ban laws prohibiting interracial marriage in 1967.

“This isn’t the first time we’ve been here,” Hinkle said.

She also said that the “trend is going in the direction” of marriage equality.

David Scarfino, vice president of the UB LGBT Alliance and a freshman intended occupational therapy major, said he feels as though it’s time for federal intervention rather than waiting for each state to pass a law.

“I think that if it ever came down to all the states having the power to decide for themselves, it would take longer and not every state would have marriage equality due to conservative thought,” Scarfino said.

Although Canty said he believes marriage equality should eventually become a federal law, he thinks it would be better if the states decided for itself to pass it. Canty, whose family is from Georgia, said he thinks that only certain “hubs” would be accepting of same-sex marriage.

“If we let the states make the decision for themselves, it will be more accepted,” Canty said.

Andrew Baumgartner, a senior nuclear medicine and psychology major, said that he thinks it is the Supreme Court’s job to rule in favor of making same-sex marriage legal.

“It’s their job to protect the rights of the minority,” said Baumgartner, who is also the treasurer of UB LGBT Alliance. “Why should popular vote be the deciding factor for my ability to get married? That’s a degrading notion.”

Canty said that although marriage equality would be a huge step for the LGBTQ community, it’s not the only issue the community is fighting for and would not necessarily be the biggest to overcome.

“Even though it would be a milestone, it would be small one,” he said. “A bigger milestone would be trans[gender] rights or recognition of economical standards.”

Scarfino and Baumgartner both said they agree that there are other issues just as important – if not more important – than marriage equality.

“While marriage equality is definitely a hot topic and needs to be discussed and passed through the Supreme Court, I would hope that it doesn’t overshadow other controversial issues that are pressing the community such as trans[gender] rights, homelessness, poverty, etc.,” Scarfino said. “Sometimes I feel that people tend to focus on just marriage equality as a way to neglect other important issues that the LGBTQ community faces.”

Canty said he believes that if the Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage equality, it would be a relief because then “it’s written, it’s done.”

“I feel like it would mean that America is going in the right direction,” Canty said. “It would be a definite point in history – it would show that peoples’ minds have changed.”

Marlee Tuskes is a contributing writer and can be reached at news@ubspectrum.com