Skip to main content

What the sanctity of marriage means

By Donna Brazile, Special to CNN
June 28, 2013 -- Updated 1718 GMT (0118 HKT)
The Supreme Court paves the way for same-sex couples to marry again in California after Proposition 8 stopped the practice.
The Supreme Court paves the way for same-sex couples to marry again in California after Proposition 8 stopped the practice.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Donna Brazile: Vast majority of young Americans support same-sex marriage
  • Brazile: Public figures who support gays have been hesitant to make beliefs public
  • Brazile: Justice Kennedy rules federal ban unfairly treats children of same-sex couples
  • Court ruling shows marriage important enough to apply to all equally, she says

Editor's note: Donna Brazile, a CNN contributor and a Democratic strategist, is vice chairwoman for voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee. She is a nationally syndicated columnist, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and author of "Cooking With Grease: Stirring the Pot in America." She was manager for the Gore-Lieberman presidential campaign in 2000.

(CNN) -- The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality this week. Marriage is an institution intended for two people who love one another, who want to commit to lifetime bonding as mates, and to form a family, whether it's only the two of them, or also includes children.

The traditional concept of marriage has evolved over time. In recent history, it has been defined by most religions, and the states, as one man and a woman. Yet there are millions of humans whose makeup is such that they are attracted to the same gender and share the universal human desire to bond with a lifetime mate. They're gays.

In 2013, the vast majority of Americans have moved beyond prejudice toward gays and lesbians. Gay couples and their families have lived openly in our communities for more than 30 years, and we know them now as neighbors, family members and friends. In the course of living their daily lives, raising families and contributing to society, we've come to see that gay and lesbian Americans share the same hopes and dreams as everyone else.

Donna Brazile
Donna Brazile

Yet for decades, we've had a political debate about opposite-gender vs. same-gender marriages that has created a constant undercurrent of unrest. What many public figures have known to be true about gay people in their personal lives has been -- until recently -- unacceptable to acknowledge openly in the political realm. Over the last several years, however, public opinion has pushed our political conversation forward dramatically. Four out of five young voters, of all faiths and political parties, support marriage equality, and even those who continue to oppose marriage rights for same-sex couples can see that it is inevitable.

The problem is that even while public opinion has reached an all-time high on marriage equality, old laws discriminating against gay and lesbian Americans have stayed on the books, hurting gay couples and their families. Congress passed a law -- the Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA -- that forbade the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage, although this is a matter, constitutionally, that most agree belongs to the states to decide. And that is the wrong that the Supreme Court set right this week.

Roberts' cousin: Stunned, shocked, excited
'Milk' screenwriter: 'We are not done'
Andrew Sullivan: Incredibly long struggle

The court found DOMA to be unconstitutional -- and it also allowed marriage rights for same-sex couples to return to California.

Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy ruled that restricting marriage to opposite-gender couples "forces same-sex couples to live as married for the purpose of state law but unmarried for the purpose of federal law, thus diminishing the stability and predictability of basic personal relations the state has found it proper to acknowledge and protect."

Kennedy also said the law unfairly treated the 220,000 children of same-sex couples in American differently from the children of opposite-sex parents -- which we should all be able to agree is harsh, unnecessary and unjust. Ensuring that all children can grow up with the same federal benefits and protections afforded by their parents' marriage and legal status is crucial, and Kennedy rightly saw the impact of not only making marriages equal for federal purposes -- but making their families equal.

Marriage is an institution that provides stability for society and for the family. By striking down DOMA and dismissing the appeal on California's Proposition 8, the Supreme Court has forged a bipartisan consensus that marriage is an important enough institution that it should apply to humans equally, regardless of gender. Importantly, the court also strengthened the foundation upon which advocates and officials will one day achieve marriage equality nationwide.

That wasn't so hard now, was it?

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Donna Brazile.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1022 GMT (1822 HKT)
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2113 GMT (0513 HKT)
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 1255 GMT (2055 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1740 GMT (0140 HKT)
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1600 GMT (0000 HKT)
The Internet is an online extension of our own neighborhoods. It's time for us to take their protection just as seriously, says Arun Vishwanath.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2154 GMT (0554 HKT)
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1023 GMT (1823 HKT)
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 0639 GMT (1439 HKT)
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 2020 GMT (0420 HKT)
Thomas Maier says the trove of letters the Kennedy family has tried to guard from public view gives insight into the Kennedy legacy and the history of era.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1456 GMT (2256 HKT)
Will Congress reform the CIA? It's probably best not to expect much from Washington. This is not the 1970s, and the chances for substantive reform are not good.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 2101 GMT (0501 HKT)
From superstorms to droughts, not a week goes by without a major disruption somewhere in the U.S. But with the right planning, natural disasters don't have to be devastating.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 2253 GMT (0653 HKT)
A story about Pope Francis allegedly saying animals can go to heaven went viral late last week. The problem is that it wasn't true. Heidi Schlumpf looks at the discussion.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Democratic leaders should wake up to the reality that the party's path to electoral power runs through the streets, where part of the party's base has been marching for months, says Errol Louis
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2123 GMT (0523 HKT)
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 1426 GMT (2226 HKT)
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
A view by Samir Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of serving in Osama bin Laden's security detail and imprisoned for nearly 13 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1738 GMT (0138 HKT)
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1828 GMT (0228 HKT)
Rip Rapson says the city's 'Grand Bargain' saved pensions and a world class art collection by pulling varied stakeholders together, setting civic priorities and thinking outside the box
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2310 GMT (0710 HKT)
Glenn Schwartz says the airing of the company's embarrassing emails might wake us up to the usefulness of talking in-person instead of electronically
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 2233 GMT (0633 HKT)
The computer glitch that disrupted air traffic over the U.K. on Friday was a nuisance, but not dangerous, says Les Abend
ADVERTISEMENT