Opinion: Supreme Court marriage ruling seen as ‘transforming’
After the jubilation of June 26, most of the country seems to have accepted the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling as a matter of course. Lee Kahrs’ reflection is an important reminder of how long this resolution has been awaited and how transforming it is, even for a gay Vermonter who has been in a civil union and happily married for several years.
Soon the details of the struggle will become a blurred memory and equality will be taken for granted even in reactionary “red state” redoubts. The immediate protests and vows of defiance will run their course and fade away. Town clerks and other officials who insist that their religious freedom allows them to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples will accept the new status quo, find other employment, or retire. When members of the clergy and religious organizations see that, indeed, they are not forced to perform or recognize same-sex weddings, growing numbers will do so voluntarily.
Though the winning side can afford magnanimity toward those who still cannot or will not see the distinction between civil and religious marriage and between marriage and procreation, the four losing Supreme Court Justices will surely be condemned by history for their hypocritical and mean-spirited dissents, just as Justice Kennedy’s emotional proclamation of equality will be lauded.
Dissenting rants by Scalia and Thomas are so wild that some have questioned these justices’ mental stability. Justice Alito is more concerned about possible accusations of bigotry against equality opponents than about the long denial of basic rights to same-sex couples. Justice Roberts asks who his five colleagues “think we are” in forsaking the “traditional” marriage practices of ancient Aztecs, Kalahari Bushmen (sic), Han Chinese and Carthaginians to join at least 20 modern states from Greenland to Canada to Argentina and from Iceland to South Africa to New Zealand in adopting equality.
The marriage ruling should have been unanimous, like Loving v. Virginia, rather than a skin-of-our-teeth swing-vote decision by Justice Kennedy, who also decided Citizens United and the recent lethal injection case. But equality will take root, a bright light in these dark and scary times. The country will realize, as Beth Robinson has always said, that the sky has not fallen (at least not as a result of marriage equality) and absolutely no one has been or will be harmed by it.
Judy and Michael Olinick
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