Reflecting on last week’s victories
Last Thursday the Supreme Court ruled that millions of people can have tax credits to help them purchase health coverage. The next day the Court made marriage equality the law of the land. Both decisions are the culmination of years of policy and legal strategies, organizing, and advocacy. Both are about fundamental human rights. Both had strong connections to organizing efforts in Massachusetts. The two cases are also connected in their future impact. LGBT people face deep disparities in accessing comprehensive health care and marriage equality can help remove those barriers. The ACA ruling ensures that a married LGBT couple who meet the eligibility guidelines will be able to access tax credits to make health insurance more affordable.
Health Care For All in Massachusetts laid the groundwork for national reform not just in 2006, when the state passed health reform, but in 1985 when it began its work. Mass Equality organized an amazing campaign to make marriage equality a reality in the state in 2004. Community Catalyst, in its previous incarnation, The Villers Foundation, was the first funder of Health Care For All and partnered with the organization to expand access to health care in Massachusetts. Community Catalyst was also supportive of the marriage equality campaign. Marcia Hams, a long-time Community Catalyst staff member, and Susan Shepherd, her wife, were the first gay couple in the country to get a marriage license. Marcia was a leader in both winning efforts.
The Supreme Court’s decisions are not end points– they are victories in the long road toward a more just society. Marriage equality is already meeting resistance in pockets of the country and there is still work to do to ensure LGBT people achieve full equality. The calls for repeal of the ACA continue, and 22 states refuse to close the coverage gap by expanding Medicaid. But the Court decisions show that momentum is moving in our direction as the recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll shows.
The 2016 elections will be the next big test for both issues, which means new strategies and more organizing and advocacy.