"The liberty protected by the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause contains within it the prohibition against denying to any person the equal protection of the laws. While the Fifth Amendment itself withdraws from Government the power to degrade or demean in the way this law does, the equal protection guarantee of the Fourteenth Amendment makes that Fifth Amendment right all the more specific and all the better understood and preserved." U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Writing for the majority in the court's 5-4 decision on the rights of gay married couples, Justice Anthony Kennedy unequivocally declared what we've known all along: Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are guaranteed equal protection under the Constitution and laws of our country.
For years, before joining Utah Pride, I wore the uniform of our nation's armed forces. I believe in this country, and the freedoms and liberties found in our Constitution. Like all Utahns, I believe in saluting our flag and defending the Constitution of the United States.
Utahns stand firmly in support of the Constitution. The Fifth Amendment within the Bill of Rights protects all citizens including lesbian and gay couples from abuses by their own government. This is a principle that's near and dear to the hearts of all Utahns.
When the ill-named Defense of Marriage Act was passed in 1996, it specifically singled out a group of citizens that the federal government would look unfavorably upon gay and lesbian couples. In the years that have passed since DOMA became law, a dozen states have legalized marriage for gay couples, but those couples have been denied the basic securities and protections that the federal government guarantees to other married couples.
Marriage has always been an institution that individual states have defined for themselves, and the federal government respected the states' right to make such definitions until DOMA.
In a truly conservative approach, the court has struck down this congressional overreaching and ensured states' rights as well as individual freedoms. It is brilliant.
In 1987, when President Ronald Reagan nominated Kennedy to the bench, Reagan said, "Judge Kennedy represents the best tradition of the American judiciary. He has established himself as a fair but tough judge who respects the law." Reagan called Kennedy a "true conservative."
Reagan would have been proud of Justice Kennedy's decision on DOMA, as should all Utahns. In defending individual liberties of some, he has ensured more freedom for all. In reining in the federal government's overreach on issues that are best left to the states, Kennedy protected conservative principles that reign supreme in Utah.
The court also determined that the anti-gay activists who proposed California's 2008 ballot measure known as "Prop 8" did not have legal standing to be heard before the Supreme Court. This will effectively strike down Prop 8 as unconstitutional, and Utah Pride applauds the court for that decision as well.
When I served in our nation's armed forces I stood for the same principles as I do today as the executive director of Utah Pride. I stand with all Utahns in the belief that we should all be treated equal under the law, and with a great deal of respect and dignity. Justice Kennedy, writing for the Supreme Court of the United States, has declared that these principles hold true today for all citizens, including lesbian and gay couples and their families.
Utah Pride applauds the Supreme Court, and specifically Justice Kennedy, for a job well done in both the DOMA and Prop 8 cases. As a result of these decisions, we can all stand a little taller and be a little more proud to be Americans.
Valerie Larabee is executive director of Utah Pride Center.