The mandate is clear: Marriage equality is a fundamental right of the people, which cannot be banned by any of the 50 states of the union. We applaud that justice has been served.
The vote was 5 to 4, with a victory for the liberal wing and Justice Anthony Kennedy, a judge who was characterized by the indecision of his vote. The opposition, led by the ultra-conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, wrote a dissenting opinion that incorporated all of the prejudices that have been proposed against marriage. In its most aggressive and lamentable section, it accuses the court of threatening democracy with this decision. The document is proof of an argument that remains unsubstantiated.
But history will not remember this. After many decades of struggle, where the idea of marriage equality went from being impossible to inevitable, same-sex couples (homosexuals) can now rest assured knowing that the law protects their unions. The practical effects are important: Inheritance protection, tax breaks and subsidies for health insurance are some of the many benefits that come with marriage. There is, however, one more important benefit that conservatives worldwide fail to recognize: the symbolic effect. The fact that same-sex unions will be called marriage, like heterosexual marriages, sends the message that there are no second-class citizens in American society. LGBT rights are human rights. Equality — formal for a while now — will finally become accessible.
To the voices that say, with fear, that marriage equality is going to destroy the traditional institution of marriage, the U.S. Supreme Court responds bluntly: “To say that these men and women do not respect the idea of marriage would be wrong. Your proposal shows precisely that they respect it; they respect it so much that they want it for themselves.”
Hopefully the judges in our Constitutional Court will hear this reasoning. In Judge Jorge Pretelt’s office rests a paper published by this newspaper, which pulls back the progress that Colombia has had so far on the subject. If adopted, it would give reason to the argument of Attorney General Alejandro Ordóñez, who says that egalitarian marriages violate the law. There is no reason to support such a position. The court must regain its role as a defender of individual rights. That is its mandate.
Of course, the legalization of same-sex marriage is not the end of the road. The movement for equality cannot rest yet. It cannot rest in the United States, where only 18 states prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, nor in Colombia, where violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people continues to increase, especially at the hands of the police and prisons in the country.
We have said in this space: Discrimination is present and will be for a long time, but these legal improvements are essential. Just two years ago, most people in the United States were opposed to marriage equality. Today, 59 percent and counting approve of it. President Barack Obama’s words ring true: “This decision reaffirms what millions of Americans already believed in their hearts.”
While we hope that Colombia will also have this opportunity, we applaud, again, the Supreme Court of the United States. It was time.