Statement on the Enshrinement of Marriage Equality and Affirmation of NASTAD's Commitment to the Well-Being of LGBT People
Today, in Obergefell v. Hodges, the U.S. Supreme Court established that every American is entitled to marry whomever they choose, regardless of sexual orientation. This landmark decision constitutes one of the greatest expansions of civil rights in the history of the United States; it strikes down same-sex marriage bans in all states and affirms marriage equality for all people.
In a 5-4 ruling, the Court resolved the central question of whether the Fourteenth Amendment requires a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex.
Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, noted: “It is now clear that the challenged laws burden the liberty of same-sex couples, and it must be further acknowledged that they abridge central precepts of equality ... Especially against a long history of disapproval of their relationships, this denial to same-sex couples of the right to marry works a grave and continuing harm. The imposition of this disability on gays and lesbians serves to disrespect and subordinate them. And the Equal Protection Clause, like the Due Process Clause, prohibits this unjustified infringement of the fundamental right to marry."
The Court’s decision resolves a long, hard-fought battle over marriage equality. The movement towards full marriage equality intensified in 2004, when Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage.
Two previous landmark Supreme Court decisions paved the road to today’s ruling. In 2003, in Lawrence v. Texas, the Court struck down sodomy laws. And in 2013, in U.S. v. Windsor, the Court struck down section three of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) deeming it unconstitutional for the federal government to discriminate against married same-sex couples for the purposes of determining federal benefits and protections.
Today’s historic decision represents an opportunity for NASTAD and other national leaders to engage the LGBT community, in both celebration, and in continuing our partnership in pursuit of common goals. Now that marriage equality is decided, we must acknowledge that many LGBT people continue to live in vulnerable socioeconomic conditions (e.g., homelessness, lack of access to educational opportunities, lack of access to health care, employment, etc.). Moreover, LGBT people of color continue to face stigma, discrimination and poor health outcomes. In particular, young Black and Latino gay men and other men who have sex with men are shouldering the burden of the current HIV, STD and viral hepatitis epidemics.
HIV is no longer only a public health crisis; it is also an affront to the humanity of every American citizen. Our nation possesses the expertise, tools and financial resources to end the HIV epidemic. In response, a social justice movement is required to acknowledge, confront and address this fact so that LGBT people can live fuller, healthier lives. Such a paradigm shift would enable LGBT people of color to focus less on avoiding disease, and more on pursuing a constitutional principle: the right of every citizen to pursue happiness – free from discrimination and oppression.
To help bring about this change, NASTAD commits to work with national LGBT organizations to continue a dialogue, and to work towards establishing a modern LGBT civil rights agenda inclusive of eliminating health disparities, reducing stigma, homo/trans/bi-phobias and combating racism. Not only would such an agenda reduce new HIV infections, but it would increase access to care and enhance the quality of life for all LGBT people.
In 1964, paraphrasing abolitionist Rev. Theodore Parker, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Now, in 2015 and beyond, LGBT people should continue to rightfully claim greater justice under the law. As the arc continues to bend, and continues to touch more people, NASTAD affirms its commitment to social justice and our vision of a world free of HIV and viral hepatitis.
The National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD)’s mission is to strengthen state and territory-based and global leadership, expertise and advocacy and bring them to bear in reducing the incidence of HIV and viral hepatitis infections and on providing care and support to all who live with HIV and viral hepatitis.