Fifty-three years ago, Blue Earth County issued the first same-sex marriage license in the United States. Eight years ago, same-sex marriage was legalized across all states with the Obergefell v. Hodges decision. And last year the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court wrote that the court should reconsider this decision.
Aaron Hoy, assistant professor of sociology at Minnesota State, spoke Thursday about the history of marriage equality in the U.S. The Sociology Department has been hosting social justice speeches about various topics, organized by Carol Glasser.
Hoy’s presentation covered the historical journey toward federally legalized marriage equality. Itstarted with the first same-sex marriage license issued to Michael McConnell and Jack Baker in 1971. That was followed by a 44-year internal fight over marriage being necessary for same-sex couples.
And most recently there was Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ remarks in his Dobbs Vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization concurring opinion, where he stated the court “should reconsider” Obergefell and other cases that use Roe as precedent.
Following these published remarks, in conjunction with various anti-LGBTQ legislation, including Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill and Tennessee’s recent bill banning drag shows, many individuals in the LGBTQ community feel these recent policy changes and suggestions from government officials are cause for concern, Hoy said.
“I think we’ve seen all sorts of bills passed and proposed, like restricting transgender access to sports and health care. There’s no evidence behind any of this being necessary. There’s all kinds of evidence suggesting it’s really deleterious to people, but they pass anyway and I think that fact should scare us. It does scare me, right? Because I think that’s all evidence that we’ve got huge targets on our backs right now,” Hoy said.
MSU College Democrats President Storm Novak said the SCOTUS decision “opened up” the idea that her rights are not untouchable.
“It really put it into perspective that all of these wins that we’ve gotten through painstaking effort and activism and years and years of advocacy can just be taken away very, very easily by a very authoritative and non-democratically elected body,” Novak said.
Political Science Professor Kevin Parsneau said a post-Obergefell U.S. would not likely resemble pre-marriage equality in terms of policy.
“It would presumably go back to states and I think similar to abortion, where now that the abortion issue has gone back to states, a lot more states are willing to legislate protections then there probably would have been in 1973,” Parsneau said.
President Joe Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act — the most well-supported federal pro-LGBTQ bill in U.S. history — into law in December. The bill passed with 39 House and 12 Senate Republicans voting yes. The bill overturned the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act which excluded same-sex couples married under state law from federal marriage benefits, and stated the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution does not require states to recognize these marriages performed in other states.
Although the Respect for Marriage Act does not require states to allow same-sex couples to marry, it requires the federal government and all states to respect pre-existing same-sex marriages. Meaning, in the event Obergefell is overturned, same-sex marriages would require federal and inter-state recognition.
Header photo: Minnesota State’s Dr. Aaron Hoy spoke to students on Friday about marriage equality amid several new pieces of legislation that target anti-LGBTQ+ community such as Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill. (Dylan Long/The Reporter)
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