A Colorado cake baker and the same-sex couple for whom he declined to make a wedding cake were all at the Supreme Court to witness arguments in the case. (Dec. 5) AP
The Court's upcoming decision could add another brick to the fortress that it has built to shield loving couples from discrimination and indignity.
Jim Obergefell holds a photo of his late husband John Arthur at the Supreme Court in 2015.(Photo: Alex Wong, Getty Images)
For years, Valentine’s Day has been the target of the modern pessimist’s wrath. It has become the focus of the cynic’s ire, an unnecessary moment that foists obligation upon millions of consumers to prove their love with purchases of chocolates and flowers.
But for millions of same-sex couples and LGBT people everywhere, it’s about so much more.
It’s a day to honor and embrace the legacy of love created by a series of landmark Supreme Court decisions that recognize the virtues of all loving relationships in the eyes of our government. It’s a moment to remind ourselves that we are free to love whom we love, to celebrate and embrace that love, and to understand what it truly means to achieve equal dignity in the eyes of the law.
The greatest Valentine’s Day messages aren’t found in a greeting card or scribbled on the back of a heart-shaped box. They’re enshrined in decision after decision that the court has set forth, decisions that protect our dignity and common humanity.
“Rising from the most basic human needs, marriage is essential to our most profound hopes and aspirations,” Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in his 2015 decision in my case, which was brought with dozens of other same-sex couple plaintiffs. “Same-sex couples, too, may aspire to the transcendent purposes of marriage … They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right."
Two years earlier, in the decision in United States v. Windsor, Kennedy wrote, "For same-sex couples who wished to be married, the State acted to give their lawful conduct a lawful status ... worthy of dignity in the community equal with all other marriages.” He further concluded that the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which required the federal government to treat married same-sex couples as though they were not legally married, “(imposed) a disadvantage, a separate status, and so a stigma upon all who enter into same-sex marriages made lawful by the unquestioned authority of the States,” and therefore violated the Constitution.
Kennedy’s words are more important today than ever before, now that many LGBT people feel their rights are becoming increasingly vulnerable. These words and these decisions, taken together, have created an America that has come closer than ever before to lifting up and celebrating humanity, kindness, respect, and equality for everyone — including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
These words have cemented a legacy that reinforces the very best of our nation’s values: an undying commitment to the pursuit of equality, fairness and liberty, for everyone.
And these decisions have helped usher in an era of greater understanding and acceptance of LGBT people, and have helped to trigger a larger cultural shift in the conversation around LGBT rights and protections.
For me personally, Kennedy’s words recognized and legitimized my own loving relationship as one that is worthy and deserving of the same protections and privileges afforded every other couple. It was bittersweet that his words came after my husband John had passed. Still, Kennedy’s decision reinforced a commitment by the high court to recognize the virtue of all loving relationships, and to protect the dignity of all citizens when they fulfill their own desires to commit themselves, as I did — in this life, and beyond — to the person they love.
These words have real and lasting impact on me and millions of people who understand that we are all protected and served by the Constitution.
And in the coming months, the Supreme Court will again hand down a decision, this time in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, that will also have real and lasting impact on millions of LGBT people — myself included
Despite the extraordinary progress cemented by the Supreme Court, this case illuminates the reality that progress will continue to be challenged by those who seek to dictate which couples are deserving of fair and equal treatment under the law, and which aren’t.
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The case will ultimately decide whether a business owner can cite personal religious objections to refuse service to same-sex couples. The decision could seriously undermine the court’s earlier rulings, including my case, in favor of the freedom to marry and equal dignity.
Could a restaurant turn away two women who want to eat dinner? Could a flower shop refuse to sell me a Valentine’s Day bouquet because I am purchasing flowers for the man I love?
The opportunities for discrimination are virtually limitless, and could ripple far beyond the LGBT community as well. Could a photography studio say it will do head shots only for men, not women, based on its religious belief that women should not work outside the home?
If the court sides with the bakery, it would undermine the court’s prior assertions that the Constitution protects the dignity and equality of same-sex couples.
And although the court’s decision remains to be seen, there is hope and optimism that it will continue building on its legacy, adding another brick to the fortress that it has built to shield millions of loving couples from discrimination, humiliation and indignity.
I have faith that the court will reinforce its legacy and ensure that Valentine’s Day will continue celebrating the love, fidelity and devotion of all couples.
So this Valentine’s Day, when the cynics rattle off tired talking points of a holiday that preys upon the pocketbooks of people, just remind them that the greatest gifts are those that we cannot purchase.
For its part, the Supreme Court has gifted a legacy of love — and that is a gift that has been given to us all.
Jim Obergefell was the lead plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage across the United States in 2015. Follow him on Twitter: @JimObergefell
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Source : https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2018/02/14/happy-valentines-day-glbt-gay-americans-owe-supreme-court-obergefel-column/336732002/1494