If you had asked me 15 years ago if one day, everyone would be able to legally marry in every state in the country, I would have replied with hopeful skepticism. I am awe-struck and downright giddy about the monumental decision by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) to make marriage accessible to anyone regardless of gender identity. When I started teaching sexuality education in the early 2000s, I thought we would forever be adding statements into lesson plans instructing facilitators to check the state’s laws on who can marry whom. I am absolutely thrilled that from now on, curricula authors get to leave that out! No more special footnotes or instructions, we just get to talk about getting married or not married as a thing for everyone and anyone.
So, hats off to SCOTUS, for requiring revisions to all published sex ed curricula and making future ones easier to write!
Today has been one of the most memorable Wednesdays for legislative victories in my arena, ever! I honestly do not remember a time when we’ve had so much good news about such bad legislation. Not only have we had a citizen filibuster shut down an outrageous abortion law in Texas, the Supreme court made MAJOR rulings in favor of marriage equality. This sexuality educator is thrilled! (Although maybe it would have been better spread out, so we can relish the wins over time. But I’ll take it any way I can!)
Texas State Senator Wendy Davis, with major support from her fellow Democrats Leticia Van de Putte, Senator Kirk Watson, Senator Royce West and Senator Rodney Ellis (read more about the power players in the filibuster), led the charge against some abhorrent TRAP laws that would have imposed unnecessary regulations on Texas abortion clinics, thus forcing the closure of all but 5 in the entire state. The bill would also ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy. Her inspirational filibuster prevented the vote on what would have been a sure-fire pass on SB5. The Twitterverse was AFIRE with supporters (and a few dissenters), proclaiming that they #standwithwendy in her awesome pink sneakers.
Although, not as vocal as the protesters/supporters that were AT the senate. At about 11:48pm (CT), the crowd started cheering so loudly, it delayed the vote until after the 12am deadline. Lt Governor David Dewhurst called for a vote anyways, which kept supporters (and Wendy Davis) on their toes, but it was eventually deemed invalid due to the fact it was taken after the deadline. Want a great recap of the day, including memes and tweets? Check out Buzzfeed’s post, The Internet Celebrates Texas State Senator Wendy Davis’ Filibuster. A more journalistic approach can be found on my ever-fave, Huffington Post.
The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), signed into law in 1996 by good ‘ole President Clinton, has been a MAJOR barrier for achieving marriage equality. The law basically said that one state did not have to recognize same-sex marriages from other states. In the case United States v. Windsor, Windsor sued the government after being charged estate tax on her partner, Spyer’s, property, which should would not have to do if their marriage was legally recognized. From here, the tale is tough for this not-so-much-a-lawyer sexuality educator to tell, so I recommend the Washington Post’s rundown on what you need to know about the case. What’s especially outstanding about this ruling, is the strong language used in the majority opinion issued by Justice Anthony Kennedy…
The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity…By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.
The Supreme Court also ruled on the 2008 California ballet measure, Proposition 8, which created a state constitutional amendment declaring that marriage is only between a man and a woman. In Hollingsworth v. Perry, the court ruled that they will not make a ruling, and the case will be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. What does that mean? The ruling in the Lower Court of Appeals stands, and same-sex marriage is back ON in CA. Again, I will admit my non-lawyer status (although my mom DID tell me to think about law school! yeah right, that legalese makes me dizzy) and direct you to the Huffington Post for more details on the legal process involved.
What does all this mean for fearless sexuality educators like myself?
One thing is that HOPE springs eternal. We so often do this work amidst setbacks, institutional barriers, and the FEAR that what we do is for naught. But days like today help us maintain our strength, and remind us to be steadfast and vocal for what we believe in. If we don our orange, stand up against injustice, and speak up for what we believe in, we can accomplish our goals.