The Supreme Court has agreed to hear two cases dealing with gay marriage: one concerning the Defense of Marriage Act and the other concerning Proposition 8 in California. Although the legal issues of the two cases are different and may have a decisive impact on each case, the subject matter is, of course, the same.
David Horsey has a very sane and a very compassionate column on the two cases and what ultimately stands behind them.
The Supreme Court will be deciding whether to uphold the appeals court ruling that struck down Proposition 8. In addition, the justices will be deliberating on the constitutionality of provisions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that deny legal benefits to same-sex couples who are married. A range of outcomes is possible including a broad decision that opens the way to same-sex marriage in every state or a narrow ruling that says Proposition 8 supporters lack legal standing. Many legal experts say the odds favor elimination of Proposition 8 and reinstitution of the California Supreme Court’s ruling that gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry in the Golden State.
Throughout this country’s history, the high court has often been the arbiter that sorts out knotty social disputes. The burgeoning conundrum now is that there is a growing number of American citizens who are legally married under the laws of several states (including California before passage of Proposition 8). Yet, these people are unable to gain the full benefits of marriage because either the federal government or states that do not recognize same-sex marriage deny them those benefits. Is such unequal treatment constitutional? The court is set to grapple with that question.
Horsey notes the usual arguments from the Religious Reich: homosexuality is an affront to the Omnipotent God; gay marriage is a sign that our society is in a disastrous moral decline, just like ancient pagan Rome; one man and one woman is how we have been designed. All of these arguments ring hollow when we look to the very people making these arguments and to the divorce statistics in this country.
That Omnipotent God created homosexuals, as scientists discovered decades ago. What, is that Omnipotent God some kind of monster, designing people to suffer, to fail, to go to Hell? And what about those "holy" people who have been caught engaged in homosexual trysts. I'm talking priests and preachers, congresscritters and Villagers. Or the serial monogamists who add to the divorce rates with astounding regularity (I'm looking at you, Newt!). Why should not all of us have access to the benefits of a recognized marriage contract so that we can avail ourselves of tax laws and custody laws and even the right to sit at the bedsides of our dying partners? Why does a civil government, one which was founded on the principle of the separation of church and state, intrude on the issue, telling us who we can marry?
Horsey's conclusion is more sanguine than I am as to the outcome than I am (Scalia, Alito, Thomas, Roberts, and who knows which of the other five), but it does summarize the argument beautifully:
The naughty old Romans are always dragged out as an object lesson by people who think society is going astray, but I must say that what happened in Washington was not a celebration of something wrong. The fact that couples who have spent years, even decades, together in loving partnerships have finally been given the chance to make their bonds legal seems very much like what DeWolf described as Christian values. Same-sex marriage is an affirmation that people – all people – are made for better things, are capable of charity and concern for one another, are enhanced by living a life of virtue.
If America believes marriage is, indeed, an institution that binds the nation together, can it be wrong to bring more citizens into that virtuous circle? Perhaps the Supreme Court will settle the question once and for all. In the meantime, voters in states that are progressive (not pagan) are deciding for themselves that the law must give everyone a shot at wedded bliss.