The Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" was an appropriate song to play yesterday as the Supreme Court made historic rulings on same sex marriage. They gave full federal recognition to gay couples who have been married in the 12 states that recognize gay marriage. And this is more than symbolic. This allows benefits for Social Security, health care, filing joint tax returns, spousal visiting privileges and more. And the dismissal of the case regarding California's Proposition 8 leaves that law unconstitutional and now the largest state once again has an open door for gay and lesbian couples to marry.
Although this was victory, this wasn't full equality. Gay people are still discriminated against – unable to marry – in most states and the Supreme Court did nothing to change that. So the ruling is the first step toward that goal of real marriage equality; which I believe we will see in our lifetime.
It would be nice if all you did need was love, but it took much, much more than that to get to this point. It took the love, the will, the tenacity, the perseverance and patience of a woman named Edith Windsor, a New Yorker who brought the suit against the Defense of Marriage Act after she had to pay an estate tax following the death of her wife, Thea Spyer, her partner of 40 years. The president called her personally to thank her for her efforts.
And in a released from Air Force One en route to Africa, Obama said:
This ruling is a victory for couples who have long fought for equal treatment under the law; for children whose parents' marriages will now be recognized, rightly, as legitimate; for families that, at long last, will get the respect and protection they deserve; and for friends and supporters who have wanted nothing more than to see their loved ones treated fairly and have worked hard to persuade their nation to change for the better.
Sadly, this week did not bring a similar victory for those that have long fought for voters' rights. With Tuesday's Supreme Court ruling invalidating Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, states may ask for identification from many, including minorities who may not have it. No license, no passport? No vote. And that fight is not over. Just imagine how many homeless, elderly and minorities will be turned away, Americans and American born who may not have the transportation to get to an "ID center" that many states have talked about providing.
Both rulings were political. Wednesday we saw the efforts pay off of a population largely leaning left on social issues; and Tuesday we saw the result of fear of the increase in African-Americans and Latinos in the voting pool. Both rulings show the necessity voting, especially casting ballots for who will lead our nation, our president. In addition to keeping us safe as commander-in-chief, a president's most important job is nominating individuals to serve on our Supreme Court, the highest court in the land.
The votes of 5 to 4 in both cases clearly demonstrate the power of one. So does our one vote and Miss Windsor's one voice. Don't ever underestimate your power ... to vote ... to love ... to fight for change.