While students active in the queer community said that they welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision Monday to let lower court judgments allowing gay marriage stand, some said that they worried that the issue of same-sex marriage overshadows other concerns of the BGLTQ community.
The Court on Monday upheld appeals court rulings that struck down gay marriage bans in five states—Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Because the decision let rulings from three federal appeals courts stand, experts believe that same-sex marriage will be legalized in the near future in six additional states that fall under the jurisdiction of those three courts.
Even though the Court chose not to hear the cases and hand down what many believe would have been a more definitive judgment on same-sex marriage, students said that they were unsurprised by the Court’s decision and believed it would have positive effects on the movement to legalize gay marriage.
Ariel C. Churchill ’15, coordinator of the Queer Resource Center, said that she was pleased with the decision, as marriage equality remains a pertinent issue for many, including members of her own family.
Churchill is from West Virginia, which is in the same circuit as Virginia and is expected to soon allow gay marriage.
“My grandparents, who are women, who have been together for 30 odd years—this is going to impact them in pretty concrete ways,” Churchill said. “[Marriage equality] is a concrete thing that we can win…. It’s really become a concern for the older generation in the LGBT community.”
Yet Jordan T. Weiers ’16, political co-chair of the Harvard College Queer Students and Allies, said that he views the decision as a “double-edged sword.” Although the ruling has sparked national conversations that may not have otherwise taken place, it may also divert attention from other problems faced by the queer community, he said.
“I am concerned that the Supreme Court decision provides the public and people among the gay community a false sense of progress,” Weiers said.
Neimy K. Escobar ’15, an intern at the Office of BGLTQ Student Life and former co-chair of the QSA, agreed with Weiers.
“[Marriage equality] isn’t necessarily going to do anything for me, as someone who is also marginalized in other ways, apart from being just queer,” she said.
Escobar also said that if the Court had chosen to hear the case and issue a national judgment, resources currently used to campaign for marriage equality could instead be funneled into efforts to address other issues in and outside of the queer community.
Harvard Law School professor Michael J. Klarman said that he was surprised that the Court opted to uphold the lower court rulings rather than hear the case. He added that public support for same-sex marriage has been on the rise in recent years.
“The future seems pretty clearly inevitable, in that [public] opinion is going to move in the direction of gay marriage even if the Court doesn’t intervene,” Klarman said.
—Staff writer Quynh-Nhu Le can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Sara A. Atske can be reached at email@example.com.