LGBTQ Committee Statement on Supreme Court Decision on Marriage Equality

July 1, 2013

The Organization of American Historians Committee on the Status of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) Historians and Histories applauds the US Supreme Court’s long-delayed acknowledgement, in its recently announced United States v. Windsor ruling, that the “Defense of Marriage Act” discriminates against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans and violates basic principles of fairness, justice, and equality. The committee also notes that the Court’s decision in¬†Hollingsworth v. Perry, which avoids the substantive issues raised by the case, opens the door to same-sex marriage in California because of a favorable lower court ruling.

The LGBT movement in the United States has been discussing and debating marriage equality since the 1950s and the committee encourages all students and scholars to deepen their knowledge of the historical developments that culminated in the Supreme Court’s rulings on same-sex marriage. These developments include discussions and debates within LGBT communities about the desirability of marriage and the strategy of prioritizing marriage equality over other LGBT struggles.

The committee is proud of the many contributions that OAH members have made, as teachers, scholars, and activists, to struggles for sexual and gender equality in general and marriage equality in particular. The amicus briefs submitted by the OAH (and the American Studies Association) in both cases were especially effective in highlighting the long history of antihomosexual discrimination in the United States.

At the same time, the OAH Committee on LGBTQ Historians and Histories recognizes that the Supreme Court’s decisions do not change the fact that thirty-seven states do not recognize same-sex marriages. We remain deeply concerned about the Supreme Court’s narrow votes in the marriage decisions. We are extremely troubled by the hostile and ignorant language in some of the dissenting opinions. We are very worried about the ways in which the Court’s majority opinion privileges some LGBT relationships over others, promotes discrimination against the unmarried, and fails to address the rich diversity of relationships that historically have been important to LGBT Americans. And we are profoundly disturbed by the Supreme Court’s voting rights and affirmative action decisions, which will contribute to discrimination against LGBT and other Americans.

As the OAH Committee on LGBTQ Historians and Histories looks to the future, it supports the ongoing efforts of historians to promote critical debate and discussion about the past, present, and future of freedom, equality, and justice inside and outside the United States.