The Supreme Court didn’t go so far as to declare same-sex marriage a constitutional right and strike down all the remaining state laws against it, but the justices went far enough on Wednesday that all the homosexual rights advocates were celebrating. Reaction among those less enthusiastic about the cause seems to have ranged from slightly annoyed to thoroughly bored with the whole topic.
In two separate decisions a five-to-four majority of the Justices struck down the part of the Defense of Marriage Act that denies certain federal benefits such as tax breaks and pension rights to same-sex couples, and declared that the clear majority of Californians who approved a referendum against same-sex marriage have no standing to defend the law against a state court’s decision to overturn the law. The former decision is expected to affect 100,000 couples or so, with Canada’s experience suggesting that same-sex marriages will remain a rarity for many years to come, and the latter overturns a law that would almost certainly be voted down by Californians today anyway, so we’re inclined to the thoroughly bored end of the spectrum.
There’s enough within the decisions to move us toward slightly annoyed, however. As Justice Antonin Scalia rightly noted in an admirably pugnacious dissenting opinion, the majority decision brands anyone who defends the traditional definition of marriage as a gay-hating bigot and “enemies of the human race.” We know enough fine people who oppose same-sex marriage to know that the opinion is not necessarily proof of some gay-bashing hatred, and we hate to see the necessary discussion about the matter limited by an anti-anti-homosexual stigma. The mayors of several large American cities have threatened reprisals against a business whose owners have express dissenting opinions, a once-respected civil rights organization has declared anti-same-sex-marriage advocates “hate groups” and provided a maps for any crazed gun-toting pro-same-sex-marriage nutcases to find them, and the entertainment and news media have piled on to disparage any dissenting opinion on the issue, so we would much prefer that the Supreme Court not take judicial notice of the stigma. The president has stated that he will not force churches to perform same-sex marriage in violation of their belies, but there’s some scary about the fact that he feels obliged to offer such reassurances.
In of those hilarious ironies that characterize modern politics Proposition Eight only passed in ‘08 because Barack Obama’s presidential campaign brought out unprecedented numbers of black and Hispanic who were not up-to-date on the white folks’ latest opinions, but there’s still something unsettling about the Court’s ruling that those voters have no standing in court when their collective opinion is negated by some judge. Given the sorry state of the state of California’s political class, referenda are the only means the beleaguered citizenry has its disposal of setting things right on a number of other issues, so the precedent is troubling. The decision also smacks of the governing class’ contempt for the will of power, so clearly on display in the passage of Obamacare and in the recent debate on illegal immigration, and this is more than slightly annoying.
We don’t begrudge our many homosexual friends their celebration, though, and with our best wishes for their happiness we are also pleased that the Court did not go so far as to declare same-sex marriage a constitutional right and overturn all the remaining laws against it. Some are longing for the day when a judge will bang his gavel and decree that henceforth all Americans will assume a fashionable admiration for homosexuality, but Americans tend to be more independently-minded and such a ruling would only provoke a public backlash of the sort that has lately arisen in such unlikely locations as France. A bored reaction by the pubic is much preferable, as people work out their relationships with a diverse rest of the world without the clumsy bullying of government and tolerance for differing points of view. There’s been a remarkable evolution of opinion between the time President Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act and the day he applauded it being declared largely unconstitutional, indeed a dizzying and slightly unsettling pace for more for such Burkean as ourselves, and advocates of same-sex marriage should not presume that it can’t change just as remarkably once again.
— Bud Norman