By Catherine Palmer, News & Features Editor
In a landmark 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled Friday to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion for the case, Obergefell v. Hodges, that under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, same-sex couples cannot be denied the right to marry.
“They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law,” Kennedy wrote. “The Constitution grants them that right.”
Many Hopkins students, scattered across the country for the summer, celebrated the milestone decision.
Junior Rebecca Rivera, co-president of the Diverse Sexuality and Gender Alliance (DSAGA), said learning of the decision was an emotional experience.
“I was leaving the gym when I glanced at a TV screen and saw the news, and for a second I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I kept rereading the headline and I got this big, goofy smile on my face,” Rivera wrote in an email to The News-Letter.
“At breakfast when it finally sunk in that marriage equality was legal in all 50 states, I actually cried a little. I was stunned and ecstatic and emotional all at once.”
Sophomore Aneeka Ratnayake, a member of DSAGA, heard about the decision from a friend in Washington, D.C. and announced it to her co-workers at the Ontario HIV Treatment Network.
“I was one of the first people at least on my side of the office that knew, and I just shouted it because we were all anticipating and wanting to know,” she said. “One of my colleagues, Ryan, who is so involved in LGBT events and organizations… across the country and is also openly gay, actually went and dyed his hair pride colors.”
“Everybody was yelling and running up and down,” she said. “There was just so much excitement happening.”
Ratnayake is a native of Canada, where same-sex marriage has been legal since 2005.
However, she said she was invested in same-sex marriage becoming legalized across the United States because of the impact she believes it will have globally.
“I think a lot of people turn to America in terms of being one the leading nations, and it is. If you look at any sort of technological advancement, any healthcare or medical advancement, the majority come from the U.S. And so, to me, being so advanced in so many fields as a country and yet not kind of acknowledging what I consider basic human rights, it kind of doesn’t fit,” Ratnayake said. “[The ruling] reflects on the kind of change that we want to see from America moving forward, and addressing these issues is definitely going to set the precedent for countries that still don’t allow same-sex marriage.”
Senior Andrew Guernsey, on the other hand, is among those who disagree with the Court’s decision, and he is disappointed by the trajectory in which society is moving.
“I think it’s a big step backwards,” Guernsey said. “I wouldn’t call this marriage equality. I think this is marriage inequality because you’re essentially creating a new norm in society that promotes as equal households in which children are denied the right to know their mother or father who brought them into the world… I don’t deny that a gay or lesbian person can be a good parent. What I’m just saying is that even the two best men in the world can never be a mom and that the two best moms in the world can never be dad.”
Chief Justice John Roberts voted against the ruling and contested its argument that same-sex marriage is a Constitutional right.
“If you are among the many Americans – of whatever sexual orientation – who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it,” he wrote in a dissenting opinion.
Guernsey believes that the deliberation over same-sex marriage is not over despite the Court’s ruling, and he hopes the topic will be openly debated at Hopkins.
“The students I know at Hopkins are very tolerant to people with different religious beliefs, so I would hope… that the campus continues to be a place where discussion and debate thrive. For example, with the Chick-fil-A issue recently, I don’t think it was representative of the way most students at Hopkins are open to debate, and I hope that we see less of that and more free and open discussion,” Guernsey said.
Demere Woolway, director of LGBTQ Life, believes that there is not much for opponents of same-sex marriage to debate.
“I think they will find that nothing in their lives will change,” she wrote in an email to The News-Letter.
Kennedy, in the majority opinion, wrote that he did not wish to infringe upon people’s First Amendment right to free speech in protesting same-sex marriage. However, he argued that allowing their opinion to influence law was unconstitutional.
“Many who deem same-sex marriage to be wrong reach that conclusion based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises, and neither they nor their beliefs are disparaged here,” Kennedy wrote. “But when that sincere, personal opposition becomes enacted law and public policy, the necessary consequence is to put the imprimatur of the State itself on an exclusion that soon demeans or stigmatizes those whose own liberty is then denied. Under the Constitution, same-sex couples seek in marriage the same legal treatment as opposite-sex couples, and it would disparage their choices and diminish their personhood to deny them this right.”
Sophomore Nevena Marinkovic, a member of DSAGA, said she was excited but shocked by the ruling.
“I didn’t expect the decision to be so sweeping. I think what was probably the most expected ruling — and what I expected, too — was for them to rule that marriage licenses [be] recognized even in states that didn’t issue them.” The blanket ruling that same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional was a surprise, she said.
Sophomore Pepe Muniz was also surprised by the ruling.
“Marriage equality across the United States is something I never thought I’d get to see. This was a beautiful movement for the right to love that will go down in history right next to slavery and women’s suffrage,” Muniz wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “And although the fight for LGBTQ+ rights is far from over, this was definitely an incredible step in the right direction. It’s a great time to be alive and to be yourself.”
Sophomore Allie Bull agrees that there is still progress to be made.
“Discrimination is unacceptable, and the nation needs the activism of the young generation to lead a movement of complete integration and acceptance. The LGBTQ community is internally strong but could be stronger when consumed by a fully inclusive national community,” she wrote in an email to The News-Letter.
Rivera, the DSAGA co-president, hopes that the decision will help promote discussion about and acceptance of the LGBTQ at Hopkins.
“I hope that it opens up more conversations at Hopkins about queerness, and fosters a willingness to engage more deeply in thinking about the struggles of marginalized communities within the Hopkins bubble,” Rivera wrote. “I hope the ruling will foster a more accepting atmosphere across campuses nationwide, and make people feel safer about questioning, exploring and discussing their experiences and sexuality.”
Sophomore Liz Winkelhoff expressed the pride that many others have felt for the progress society is making.
“Today is the sort of day that I’m proud to live through,” she wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “Our children will live in a world where all types of love are their constitutional right, and that’s the world I want to live in too.”
“But the fight doesn’t end here. There is still discrimination, and we can use this momentum to keep moving forward, which is what I think the LGBTQ community deserves.”
Jacqui Neber contributed reporting.