News Local/State

What Does The Supreme Court’s Same Sex Marriage Decision Mean?

courtroom gavel and scales

Creative Commons

Friday’s US Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage allows for uniformity across state lines, so same-sex couples married in Illinois or other states do not lose the rights associated with their marriage when they cross the state border.

“People in this country travel quite frequently for work, for pleasure, and this is going to make people’s lives so much easier. Especially if they are a family,” said University of Illinois law professor Sara Benson. Her research interest is in Sexual Orientation and the Law.  “With the fluidity of people’s lives in this country, I think it’s really important that things be uniform."

With the fluidity of people’s lives in this country, I think it’s really important that things be uniform.Sara Benson

This ruling, while making marriage legal in all 50 states does not mean completely smooth sailing for same-sex couples. “There will be backlash, there’s always backlash,” says Christopher Mooney, Director of the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs. He focuses on comparative state politics and policy, especially in the area of morality policy, including gay marriage. “That’s just how these things work. … But with the Supreme Court ruling fairly definitively on this I think the backlash will be fairly muted, and will be relatively ineffective on this issue because I think this pretty much settles it.”

Benson says that while the ruling is huge same-sex couples but she doesn’t think the ruling covers everything. She says there is a chance some states still could make marriage difficult for people who are transgender and that employment discrimination is still a factor.

“For the gay community in general and for the transgender community in particular, fighting for employment discrimination rights is very important because states vary in their protections for employment discrimination,” said Benson.

Adoption still may be tricky in states that had not legalized same-sex marriage prior to the ruling and “the recommendation for those couples is still to go through the more expensive and lengthy process of getting a second parent adoption in place instead of relying on the presumption of parenthood,” said Benson.  

This is because in traditional marriage when a couple has a child there is a presumption that the child is a product of that marriage.  Benson says she could see some places citing this and saying “how can you say this child is the product of the marriage when two women can’t procreate and there has to be someone else involved so where is that third person?”

“So there are still battles to be fought but this is a huge day and I don’t want to downplay that. This is huge – for so many people and so many families,” said Benson.