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Marriage equality?

Not so fast
By Tim Holbrook | Updated 1842 GMT (0142 HKT) June 29, 2015

Photo: The white House is lit up in rainbow colors in commemoration of the


Supreme Courts ruling to legalize same sex marriage on Friday, June 26. The
court ruled that states cannot ban same-sex marriage, handing gay rights
advocates their biggest victory yet.

Story highlights
Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in
Obergefell v. Hodges is a landmark
ruling for America
Tim Holbrook: While this is a big step
for equality and inclusion, inequality and murky questions remain
Photo: Tim Holbrook

(CNN) The decision for a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender


(LGBT) person to "come out" is a difficult and emotional one. For
me, coming out in 1998 meant accepting that something I had
always dreamed of -- getting married -- would never come true. At
that time, marriage was not a legal option, and I thought it never
would be.
Fortunately, I was wrong and that dream has been realized. Last July
I married my husband in Illinois and now, because of the Supreme
Court's 5-4 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, I am now legally
married in my home state of Georgia and, indeed, across the United
States.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, captured the
significance of marriage to the LGBT community: "No union is more

profound than marriage. ... It would misunderstand these men and


women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is
that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its
fulfilment for themselves. ...They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of
the law. The Constitution grants them that right."
And with that powerful language, the doors to marriage opened for
gays and lesbians across the country. This is a historic moment that
brings much joy and tears to LGBT people all across America.
While that is an important step for equality and inclusion for LGBT
people, it is just that -- a step. Inequality and murky questions
remain.

Full LGBT equality


The Court's decision will have an immediate impact in a
few areas, and LGBT people will be treated equal to
straight couples.

Social Security and taxes


Same-sex couples will now be treated equal to opposite-sex
couples when it comes to filing their taxes and receiving Social
Security benefits.

Inheritance
Married same-sex couples will now inherit property in the
absence of a will in the same ways opposite-sex married couples
do.

Hospital visitation and medical decisions


A spouse has the right to visit the other spouse in hospitals and
make medical decisions if one becomes incapacitated. Those in
same-sex marriages now get those rights.

Divorce
While it's perhaps odd to discuss divorce on the day the
Supreme Court provides marriage rights, it is important. At
present, married same-sex couples living in states that didn't
recognize their marriage could face great difficulty getting a
divorce, because the state wouldn't hear the case. Now, they
can get divorced in the state in which they reside.

LGBT inequality remains


The reach of the Courts decision is somewhat limited.
There are a number of areas in which the LGBT community
will face unequal treatment.

Non-discrimination protections
The court's decision has no impact on non-discrimination
protections for LGBT people. There is no federal law that
prohibits discrimination against the LGBT community in
employment, housing or public accommodations. There remains
a patchwork of protections at the state level. Only 18 states and
Washington, D.C., ban all LGBT discrimination, while three other
states only prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The others offer no state level protection, though local
governments may provide protection.

Equal protection for the LGBT community


The Obergefell decision did not determine whether the LGBT
community should be treated in a manner akin to race, gender,
religion or national origin under the Constitution's Equal
Protection Clause. When a law uses a suspect classification, it is
rarely found to be constitutional. The laws only survive if they
advance a compelling government interest in the least restrictive
means possible -- an incredibly difficult standard to achieve.

Blood donations
Currently, men who have had sexual relations with other men
(MSM) are unable to donate blood. This policy is based mainly on
the fears of the HIV virus entering the blood supply.
Nevertheless, the policy has been criticized as outdated and
discriminatory because straight blood donors who have engaged
in high risk behaviour are not prohibited. The Food and Drug
Administration has suggested changing the policy to allow
donations from MSM if they have not had sex with another man
in the last year. Even if adopted, that policy would continue to
exclude married gay men.

Impact remains to be seen


Marriage pervades many aspects of our daily life. As such,
the court's decision may have repercussions in other areas
that affect the rights of the LGBT community.

Adoption
Some states do not allow same-sex couples to adopt. In light of
Obergefell, courts likely will strike down such prohibitions,
particularly as child-rearing is viewed as an important aspect of
marriage. Nevertheless, the decision itself does not expressly
address that issue. States that are resistant to same-sex
marriage may try to retain such adoption limits. Ultimately,
these efforts will fail, but it will take some time to clarify that
issue.

Religious accommodations for those opposed to samesex marriage


As the controversy in Indiana last spring showed, much of the
opposition to same-sex marriage is religiously based. States
have attempted to use Religious Freedom Restoration Acts to
provide greater protections for religious liberties. As the
Supreme Court majority noted Friday, churches that oppose
same-sex marriages will not be forced to perform them. That
would violate the First Amendment's protections for religious
liberty. Nevertheless, same-sex marriages will create difficulties
for religious institutions. As Chief Justice John Roberts asked, will
religious institutions that provide married student housing be
forced to allow same-sex married couples into such housing,
even if their faith finds same-sex relationships to conflict with
their beliefs? Can a religious employer refuse to hire, or even
fire, someone who is in a same-sex marriage? These interstitial
areas will have to be addressed.

Friday's decision is a landmark decision. But it does not answer all


the issues faced by the LGBT community and, indeed, it may
generate new ones.

http://edition.cnn.com/2015/06/26/opinions/holbrook-marriageequality/index.html
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