Students, faculty react to Supreme Court's ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act

The decision will not cause any immediate changes to Missouri law.

As the U.S. Supreme Court justices prepared to hand down their decisions regarding United States v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry on Wednesday, a group of people nearly 900 miles away gathered to await the verdicts.

The case United States v. Windsor, which declared Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional, determined that married same-sex couples are eligible for the federal benefits granted through federally recognized marriages. The Supreme Court dismissed Hollingsworth v. Perry, meaning a lower court’s ruling regarding California’s Proposition 8 was allowed to stand. The lower court ruled that Prop. 8 was unconstitutional and gay marriage was legal in California.

Before the decisions were handed down, the LGBTQ Resource Center opened its doors to the campus and the community to offer a place to share reactions and understand the rulings.

LGBTQ Resource Center Coordinator Struby Struble said she wanted a community of people in the center to share reactions – whatever they may have been. She also wanted to create a place where people could understand the impact of the decisions. They used the TV, computers and whiteboards in the center to provide information and underline the key points of the decision.

“As soon as the announcements were made about each case, I wanted to make sure as coordinator that we were promptly and accurately interpreting the rulings and letting our students and community know what they meant,” she said in an email. “The way the Supreme Court and our legal system works, the decisions are very rarely yes/no or simple. There are a lot of complicated layers to each decision, and even on what basis they make the decision can have implications on the future and how the decision plays out in the lives of everyday Americans.”

MU assistant Political Science professor Justin Dyer said the decision in the United States v. Windsor is only confined to states that recognize same-sex marriage. He said the decision will not cause any immediate changes to Missouri law, where same-sex marriage is not recognized as legal.

However, he said Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion left the topic open for discussion in the future. He said this is only the beginning of the discussion, not the end, and these issues will need to be revisited in the future.

“There will be no immediate effects in Missouri, but we will likely see challenges going forward in the future,” Dyer said.

Dyer said the country will see such issues as divorce proceedings, child custody and immigration – in regards to the definition of marriage – playing out at both the state and federal level, and the federal government will need to define marriage to answer some of these questions.

Although the decision in United States V. Windsor will have no immediate effect on Missouri laws, Struble said it does have immediate cultural and emotional impacts.

“Culturally, this affirms the growing view of society, especially among the younger generations, that members of the LGBTQ community are full, whole human beings who deserve the full rights of any other citizen in this nation,” Struble said in an email.

Emotionally, she said Missourians and MU students will have a range of reactions. She said for those people who are against LGBT rights, they will experience feelings of confusion, anger and misunderstanding but will see no effect on their day-to-day lives. For those who are in support LGBT rights, they will experience excitement, joy, relief and pride, she said.

“For those who are pro-LGBT rights and in committed same-sex relationships or hoping to be in a committed same-sex relationships someday, this has large day-to-day impacts,” Struble said in an email. “The question of whether or not to get married, or to travel to get married, or to move based on marriage rights, are currently and will continue to weigh heavily on the hearts and minds of those couples and their families.”

For the LGBTQ Resource Center’s weekly talk radio show InsideOUT, they covered the landmark cases to help further educate students and listeners.

“As the LGBTQ Resource Center, we want to continue to be a place of safety and support to answer any questions people may have,” Struble said in an email. “It is our goal to educate about, support and advocate for sexual and gender minorities at Mizzou.”

MU Triangle Coalition President Theo Tushaus said he was initially excited by the decisions but has since approached the decisions with cautious optimism. He said he is unsure whether he will discuss the decisions when TriCo meetings resume because neither decision will have much effect on Mizzou or Missouri.

“I still have more research to do on both decisions, but I’m optimistic,” Tushaus said in an email. “At this point it looks as though neither decision will cause sweeping changes to the nation, but neither decision was a setback either.”

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