June 26, 2013 will be remembered as the day this nation took two giant steps forward toward making liberty and justice for all not just a pledge but a reality for LGBT Americans. By affirming the federal district court ruling that found California's Prop 8 unconstitutional, and by striking down Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the Supreme Court made history with rulings that told all loving and committed couples who marry that they deserve equal legal respect and treatment.
Sadly, those two steps forward came just a day after the same Supreme Court took one step back by striking down a central part of the Voting Rights Act -- and so our delight in the movement forward on marriage equality is tempered by our distress at the dismantling of voter rights protections.
Nevertheless, as a California priest and pastor, I rejoice that my church can now offer both equal blessing and equal protection to the couples who come to us for marriage. As an American citizen, I am proud that my country is continuing to evolve toward that "more perfect union" where liberty and justice applies to all -- not just some -- Americans. And as an activist committed to the audacious goal of full equality for LGBT Americans, I am celebrating today's rulings as incremental victories toward that not-yet "mission accomplished" goal. We did not get the whole enchilada -- but there is enough guacamole for me.
Of course I would have loved to see the Supreme Court issue a broad ruling on marriage reflecting what the majority of Americans already know: When we all can share in the freedom to marry, it makes our families stronger, it makes our communities stronger, and it makes our nation stronger. And while today's decisions by the Court fell short of that broad ruling, they inarguably moved us down the road toward the day when marriage discrimination will end up where it belongs: in the dustbin of history.
Overturning Prop 8 is a great day for California, and dumping Section 3 of DOMA is a huge victory for married couples in the now 13 states (plus the District of Columbia) with marriage equality. For thousands of married lesbian and gay couples, today's ruling means that they can better protect one another and their children because they will no longer be discriminated against in federal policies intended to support families, like inheritance laws and family and medical leave. At the same time, there are still 37 states that continue to treat gay and lesbian citizens and their children as unequal and second-class citizens.
So today we celebrate with those who now have the freedom to marry. We give thanks for all who have labored so long and hard to bring us to this day of decision that puts us further down the road toward full equality. We give thanks for a protect-marriage movement dedicated to protecting all marriages, and a family-values coalition committed to valuing all families. And we recognize that there are miles to go before we rest, before that arc of history we are told bends toward justice reaches the goal of equal justice for all LGBT Americans.
We will not rest while millions of others across the country are still treated as second-class citizens. We will not claim "mission accomplished" until liberty and justice for all really means "all." And we will not settle for anything less than the proposition that all people are created equal as we continue to work to achieve the freedom to marry -- and to vote -- for all Americans.