On June 26th, the Supreme Court delivered decisions on Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that paved the way for same-sex marriage to resume in California and will help already-married same-sex couples to receive federal recognition and rights. CMC’s Audrey Bilger, Professor of Literature and co-editor of Here Come the Brides! Reflections on Lesbian Love and Marriage, has followed the cases closely, blogging for Ms. Magazine and speaking as a guest multiple times on KCRW radio’s local broadcast, Which Way L.A.?, and the national KCRW/PRI program To the Point.
On the day the decisions were announced, Bilger spoke on To the Point about the role of the feminist movement in the fight for marriage equality. She argued that feminism has helped redefine the definition of marriage, moving from a “traditional” or primarily procreative model to a more companionate model based on equality between partners. Bilger cited the influence of the companionate marriage model on Judge Vaughn Walker’s opinion in his 2010 overturn of Proposition 8, leading to the case’s appeal before the Supreme Court.
In a blog post for Ms. Magazine published on the same day, Bilger asserts that these Supreme Court decisions represent a victory not only for same-sex couples, but also for equality within marriage regardless of gender. She explains, “The battle lines in these cases have to do with competing models of marriage, as Justice Samuel Alito made clear in his dissent against the overturning of the federal Defense of Marriage Act”. Justice Alito’s dissent was based on a traditional model, she explains, one that most Americans have moved away from thanks to feminism and the notion of equality within marriage: “The state has no interest in defining relations within the family and saying that men need to do certain things and women need to do certain things.”
Bilger also points out that the majority opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, spoke for thousands of children of same-sex couples by legitimizing their parents’ marriages at the federal level, allowing for the vital stability of family life that research has shown leads to the best outcomes for children.