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Faculty praise court decision on gay marriage

UB faculty member Jonathan Katz calls the Supreme Court's decision on gay marriage the biggest advance in queer rights since the court's ruling in 2003 overturning anti-sodomy laws.

By PATRICIA DONOVAN and CHARLES ANZALONE

Published June 27, 2013

Two UB faculty members have weighed in on yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling overturning the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that barred the federal government from recognizing same-sex unions.

Art historian and pioneering gay activist Jonathan D. Katz praises the decision as “the biggest advance in queer rights since the Lawrence v. Texas decision in 2003, which overturned anti-sodomy laws.”

Katz, professor of visual studies and founder of the Harvey Milk Institute in San Francisco, is one of nation’s most prominent experts in queer studies, the academic discipline examining sexual orientation and gender identity.

“DOMA was our Jim Crow, a law that made manifest our inequality, our status as second-class citizens who could be discriminated against with legal impunity,” he says.

Michael Boucai, associate professor in the UB Law School, calls DOMA an unjust, unconstitutional law that “caused serious harm to thousands of families by denying federal recognition of otherwise valid same-sex marriages.”

“It was an unjust law. I also think it was unconstitutional, and on more than one ground: equal protection, substantive due process, maybe federalism,” says Boucai, whose research focuses on the legal regulation of sexuality and intimate relationships.

“The Supreme Court in Windsor invokes all three doctrines, but was most concerned with equality. It calls DOMA a product of pure animus, like Amendment 2 in Romer v. Evans.”

Amendment 2 to the Colorado state constitution prevented gays and lesbians from being recognized as a protected class. The Supreme Court in 1996 ruled in Romer v. Evans that Amendment 2 was unconstitutional.

Katz notes that with the demise of DOMA, “same-sex marriage now has real teeth, real tangible benefits. We will see a huge upsurge in same-sex marriages in the next year as many more couples opt for the real, as opposed to the largely symbolic, state benefits of marriage,” he says.

“And, as the justice gap between states that have ratified same-sex marriage and states that still discriminate against us grows, the American public will grow increasingly uncomfortable with this division and the inevitable result will be freedom to marry across the land.”

READER COMMENT

I do not think that the school should be openly supporting or not supporting this. Not related to academics and the school should remain unbiased and not show its opinion. As a representative of 30,000+ people, this article does not summarize the differing thoughts of every person at the university, whether supportive or not.

John Rodrigues