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Joan Steinau Lester: SCOTUS and Same-Sex Marriage

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Same-sex marriage is not on the docket of the current Supreme Court term, but people like Joan Steinau Lester worry that it soon might be.

Is the Supreme Court coming for my marriage next? Justice Thomas wrote in his opinion overturning Roe that since the 14th amendment did not protect abortion, other rulings like Obergefell, the 2015 same-sex marriage case, could also be revisited.

That one legalized my 41-year-old marriage. Suddenly my wife and I gained a staggering 1,138 federal rights, now that we were legally related. Before, if one of us had landed in the hospital the other— not considered next of kin—could have been refused the right to visit or make health care decisions. News of Obergefell’s victory sent us waves of relief.

If the Supreme Court repeals it, we could end up like the so-called “spinster roommates” of history, subject to the whims of the other’s biological family, who’d be entitled to make all decisions about our beloved if she were incapacitated.

I’ve lived in these marital shadows before: my first marriage was to a Black man when that was illegal for me as a white woman. It took the 1967 Loving Supreme Court decision to make that union legal.


Twice, my choice of who to love has been clouded by laws inserted into the deepest privacy of my home. Twice, it took a Supreme Court decision to gain my rights. And now the Court threatens to take them away.

This November, we need to maintain Congressional majorities who can legislatively assure our fundamental personal rights.

With a Perspective, this is Joan Steinau Lester.

Joan Lester lives in Berkeley.

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