The Supreme Court will decide shortly whether to review and decide a marriage equality case before its current term ends in June. Many are praying for this, eager to wrap up an issue long past the tipping point that folks are sick of discussing.But there is a more important reason the Court should act now: to halt the severe harm that continuing denial of the freedom to marry inflicts every day on countless same-sex couples, their children, and their extended families and friends. It matters whether this harm ends in June 2015 or lingers into the future.The long-building national consensus for marriage equality reached critical mass after the Supreme Court's 2013 Windsor decision held it unconstitutional for the federal government to refuse to recognize the lawful marriages of same-sex couples. A flood of state and federal court decisions over the last eighteen months has applied Windsor to invalidate the marriage bans of the majority of states.The Court's denial of review delayed the nationwide elimination of discrimination and its harms -- but it also made all those favorable decisions final, allowing marriages to go forward in five more states (up from 19) and setting off a ripple effect that has now brought the freedom to marry to thirty-five states (with Florida coming on line in a few days as number 36), plus four with pro-equality rulings on appeal. In comparison, only thirty-four states permitted interracial couples to marry when Loving v. Virginia was decided in 1967.[A] handful of courts have gone the other way -- most significantly, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which in one fell swoop in November reversed pro-equality rulings in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. Marriage rights advocates are now asking the Supreme Court to review this decision and one issued by a federal district judge in Louisiana upholding that state's marriage ban. Their chances are good, because the Sixth Circuit created a classic "circuit split," though it is still possible the Court will opt to let litigation play out first in the remaining states.In the 15 states without the freedom to marry, families suffer concrete harm every day, deprived of literally hundreds of government benefits and protections as well as private benefits awarded based on marital status.Exclusion from marriage also inflicts severe dignitary injury -- the impact of being treated as second-class citizens with second class relationships. These injuries can be quite tangible, particularly the psychological harm to children of being told by society that their families are less real and worthy of respect than those of different-sex parents.Even couples deemed married in their home states are harmed by continuing marriage discrimination in other states. Every time they travel to a non-recognition state they risk being treated as unmarried in the event of a medical or other emergency.There is simply no good reason to inflict these risks and harms on American families for another day, much less another year. The country is ready for full recognition of the freedom to marry. Let's hope the Supreme Court is as well.
Personally, the husband and I avoid non-marriage states and hope the issue in Florida is finally resolved before we decide whether or not to go to Key West this year. As for the harm being done, there is no reason for it other than the desire of fat cows like Maggie Gallagher and Cardinal "Porky Pig" Dolan to feel smug and self-satisfied with themselves.