This week has resulted in a historic turn of events given the Supreme Court of the United States' (SCOTUS) decisions on several key civil rights cases. SCOTUS punted on affirmative action, slashed voting rights, did the right thing respective to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and seemingly acquiesced in allowing California's Proposition 8 to fall on a "right to sue" procedural technicality.
Rightly so, LGBT advocates, litigants, allies and friends have been cheering Wednesday's broad ruling where DOMA was declared unconstitutional based, in part, on equal protection.
However, there is much less to be cheering about. While the case against Proposition 8 was a victory of the LGBT communities, the victory is tempered by the limited application of same sex marriage rights. Despite the inscription at SCOTUS, unlike in Brown v. Board of Education or Loving v. Virginia, SCOTUS did not issue a sweeping "equal justice under the law" decision and rule same sex marriage bans in other states unconstitutional.
This should be pause for concern. With interracial marriage and segregated schools, SCOTUS finds a compelling national interest in uniformity. Yet with same-sex marriage, inequality remains in 70 percent of the country.
This is a step in the right direction, but the step, too, is tempered by the slashing of voting rights, and the side-stepping of affirmative action, and the fact that these decisions were close. Neither was unanimous. Although the judicial branch is nonpartisan, SCOTUS is as polarized as Congress.
This week's SCOTUS decisions, while historic, is a mixed bag, and that should be troubling for those of us who still believe in the "land of the free and home of the brave."
Take LGBT civil rights, for example -- in a vast majority of states in the country, LGBT persons can still be fired from their jobs because of their sexual orientation, most states still do not offer housing protections, and new HUD reports highlight the continued vast discrimination against those communities. In states like Mississippi, LGBT persons still can't marry, can't adopt children, can't rely on the state to protect their political candidacies because -- also in Mississippi and dozens of other states, state hate crime legislation fails to protect sexual orientation and/or gender identity/expression.
I don't mean to be a sour puss, but the victories hailed need to be contexualized. Progress deserves cheers at all times. However, in many corners of this great nation, our collective moral compass remains highjacked by visions of the past that seek to deny equal opportunity to everyone. From affirmative action, to voting rights to marriage rights, this "land of the free" has much more work to do.
Let's not celebrate too long. For we can not rest on our laurels -- this must just be the beginning.