By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The US Supreme Court will close its term today with a ruling on a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act, which blocks gay married couples from federal benefits, as well as California’s Proposition 8 that bans gay marriage in that state. While gay activists are cautiously optimistic, fate appears to be on their side.
It was 10 years ago today that the US Supreme Court struck down anti-sodomy laws as an unconstitutional invasion of the right to privacy. That 2003 ruling in Lawrence v. Taylor decriminalized intimacies among same-sex couples and now, as a symbolic anniversary gift, the court could extend marriage rights and benefits to gay couples as well.
“The court generally tries to sidestep a lot of social issues until they feel the country is ready,” says Malcolm Lazin, founder of Equality Forum. He notes that the past 10 years have brought broad change, with 12 states legalizing gay marriage, and eight others offering some sort of same-sex union.
“Certainly the polling is there, for equality in terms of hate crimes, work place discrimination and people being treated equal,” he says, “The fact that this has happened in 10 years it just shows the jet propulsion of this issue.”
“You can almost taste the rights that are coming,” says Gloria Caserez, says Philadelphia director of LGBT affairs Gloria Caserez. “The consensus that we’re hearing more and more from allies, and there are more allies than people in the LGBT community, is that the time has come.”
Leaders in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community want sweeping change on same-sex marriage, but legal scholars say they are may not get it today. The Supreme Court has leaned conservative this week, gutting a key provision in the Voting Rights Act and refusing to clearly preserve affirmative action. Some fear this conservative approach could extend to the DOMA and Proposition 8 ruling.
“There are three different ways the court could rule on DOMA and for Prop 8- there are seven ways the court can rule,” says Angela Giampolo, a gay rights lawyers and chair of Gay and Lesbian Lawyers of Philadelphia.
Giampolo says LGBT leaders expect movement in the right direction on same-sex marriage, but this week’s rulings leaves many hesitant to get too optimistic.
“Getting what we want and getting it the way that we want it is two different things,” she says, “how the Supreme Court goes about ruling on these issues will not have the sweeping effect that LGBT advocates are hoping for.”
But not everyone is pumping the breaks on their expectations.
“We’re full of anticipation,” says Mark Segal, publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News. “I don’t believe that anyone can fathom the idea of nine intelligent people saying that the civil rights of a group of people in this country do not exist.”
The ruling is expected later this morning. Follow @kywnewsradio on Twitter for updates.