June is Pride Month and two recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions are creating a positive response in support of LGBT equity. On June 26, 2013, the Court struck down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional (U.S. v. Windsor) and made a procedural ruling in Hollingsworth v. Perry (re: Proposition 8) that now allows the State of California to resume issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in that state. NASW filed amicus curiae briefs with the Court in both cases in coalition with other professional organizations.
These two decisions reflect increased national support for marriage equality with broader implications for strengthening LGBT civil rights. As noted by NASW President Jeane Anastas, “The Supreme Court’s decision this week opens the door for many same-sex couples to have access to all the legal rights afforded by marriage. This is a critical moment in the continued need to address the legal and social inequalities that hurt LGBT couples and their families.”
Marriage equality increases access to the over 1,000 federal protections and responsibilities historically denied to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender families under DOMA. Yet it must be noted that same-sex couples cannot legally marry in most states and territories of the United States, leaving uncertainty about the extent to which same-sex spouses will receive federal (marital-based) protections nationwide as is currently afforded opposite-sex spouses.
The decisions will increase the economic security of many children living in LGBT families and re-energize the social work community to work towards inclusive policies and laws. “The Supreme Court’s DOMA and Prop 8 decisions are a historical step forward on the pathway to true equity. Social workers must seize this momentum to end employment-based discrimination and support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), andend discrimination and harassment in the workplace for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons,” said NASW CEO Angelo McClain.
DOMA was discriminatory and unconstitutional, and its remaining provisions are a powerful reminder of how laws, beliefs, and practices can treat lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals and families as less than equal. Social workers are critical allies in the efforts to truly promote equity for all members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities.
Sustaining Our Nation’s Social Safety Net : NASW Document to the Obama Administration, 2012
NASW Legal Defense Fund: Amicus Brief Database (members only)
Evelyn P. Tomaszewski, ACSW, NASW Senior Policy Associate