Today is a pretty important day in the fight for civil and equal rights for LGBT folks in the US. Tomorrow is too. However, it also looks like the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is completely aware of how important this issue is. They are also aware of the fact that it is only in the last year or so that the majority of people in the country support civil unions equivalent to marriage or marriage rights for LGBT couples. If they make a ruling about this divisive issue in the next few weeks they will be continuing the forward march for civil equality but also giving a new rallying point for those against equality.
Essentially, the justices really don’t want to make this decision until we’ve reached a greater than 60% majority in support. Or at least that’s how I’ve been reading it.
Some reasons for that assessment: The argument against Prop 8 (the California constitutional amendment from 2008 that banned marriage or civil unions for anyone besides a single man to a single woman) is literally only arguing against Prop 8. They are not arguing for sweeping, nationwide changes. They are arguing explicitly for the amendment to be overturned and made null and void. Justice Roberts verified the point with the Solicitor General of the Obama administration, “[Y]ou are willing to wait in the rest of the country,” Roberts said. “You’re saying [same-sex marriage] has got to happen right now in California, but you don’t even have a position about whether it’s required in the rest of the country.” I don’t believe that the court really wants to get involved in something so sticky as ruling one way for a state but ruling another way for the country, as could happen with the DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) case they will be hearing tomorrow. There is a very high likelihood that they will defer ruling on Prop 8 and send it back down to the previous district courts (where there will be even more confusion about what to do next) because they will instead rule on DOMA.
What does this mean for the fight for marriage equality? That it’s not going to be so easy as having one or two hearings before SCOTUS. It’s going to continue to require a state by state battle to get equality of some sort. It’s going to require enough political action to actually get people to the voting booths, which is no small task. It’s going to require that we wait for older generations to pass on before the younger generations, where there is a clear majority of supporters, become the majority of voters. Or it’s going to require someone bring forth a clear, valid argument against a defense that could actually be valid long enough to be considered in court for why there should be sweeping, nationwide changes like what there was for Loving vs. Virginia in 1967. The repeal of DOMA and even overturning of Prop 8 are not going to make it happen, though either one being overturned will be a huge victory and add momentum to the equality cause.
I hope, I really do, that I am wrong. I hope that SCOTUS will rule in favor of overturning/repealing both. As much as it will be a rallying point for opponents of same-sex marriage and equality, it could be enough to convince those who have been waiting to see who the winner is going to be that they ought to throw their support in for equality. That would be super awesome and make me a rather happy camper.
Honestly though, I think it would be rather nice if the whole marriage vs. civil unions thing would be figured out. I have a few friends that really deserve to be married but are only just now being given the opportunity to have a civil union. It’s nice and almost there, but not quite the same idea. Now, if government decided to get their noses out of marriage in general and only have civil unions recorded and all that for state records for everyone, I’d be down for that. Religious institutions could figure out what the hell marriage is and what it means and who or who can’t get married, but that special snowflake definition would only matter and be recorded within that particular institution. I think that would totally be a win-win for everyone. The religious folks could get a civil union with all the legal and tax benefits that come with it and get married through their religious institution and life would be good. There are enough open and non-denom and “we just like to have community!” sort of places that even non-religious folks could still get “married” if they really wanted to.
But hey, maybe I just don’t care all that much because “marriage” has always been an odd concept to me and I’ve always found it to be rather controversial anyway. The history of marriage has never boded well for women, even civil unions never really boded well for women. I would be completely fine with something that came with less baggage and was more personal. But, marriage is important to some people, including my husband, so… *shrugs* I say we make it so that everyone who wants to get married can. *nods*