Equality moved a step closer for gays and lesbians on Thursday when a conservative judge ruled in favor of same-sex marriage.
Judge Dennis Jacobs is the chief judge of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
George Bush I appointed him, and Jacobs is known as one of the most conservative judges on the court.
The case involved the lesbian couple, Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer, who had been together for forty-four years and who married in Toronto in 2007. When Spyer died two years later, Windsor had to shell out $300,000 in estate taxes that she would not have owed if her spouse had been a man.
Judge Jacobs ruled that this discrimination was unconstitutional because it violated the equal protection clause.
Jacobs also ruled that laws that discriminate against gays and lesbians require “heightened scrutiny” to pass muster.
In this case, the law against same-sex marriage did not clear that hurdle because the ban was “not related to an important government interest.”
He is absolutely right about that. The ban is a relic of a religious doctrine, and there is no important government interest in preventing women from marrying women or men from marrying men. All the arguments that have been adduced—about “the sanctity of the family,” about marriage as a procreative institution, about the well-being of children in a same-sex marriage—have been proven to be meritless.
Judge Jacobs also correctly pointed out that “homosexuals are not in a position to adequately protect themselves from the discriminatory wishes of the majoritarian public.”
That’s why we have laws, rights, and an independent judiciary: to protect people from the tyranny of the majority.
This decision will stand as a landmark along the road to full equality for gays and lesbians. That road is getting shorter by the day.
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