The one thing that the parties in this case seem to agree on is that marriage is very important. It’s thought to be a fundamental building block of society and its preservation essential for the preservation of society. Traditional marriage has been around for thousands of years. Same-sex marriage is very new. I think it was first adopted in The Netherlands in 2000. So there isn’t a lot of data about its effect. And it may turn out to be a — a good thing; it may turn out not to be a good thing, as the supporters of Proposition 8 apparently believe.
But you want us to step in and render a decision based on an assessment of the effects of this institution which is newer than cell phones or the Internet? I mean we — we are not — we do not have the ability to see the future.
Members of the same gender have been coupling off for centuries, sometimes with ceremonies that look rather marital to modern eyes. Here in America, gay marriages predate the modern gay rights movement. Six years before Stonewall, the 1963 book The Homosexual and his Society described informal gay weddings where “all the formalities of [a] legally certified and religiously sanctioned ceremony are aped with the greatest of care.”…As gay life became more visible, so did those permanent partnerships, and as social tolerance of homosexuality grew, more people accepted the partners’ marriages as real. In 1992, long before any state recognized gay marriage as a legal right, Suzanne Sherman could fill a big chunk of a book by interviewing gays who had married and officiants who had blessed their unions. Such marriages were eventually honored by institutions outside as well as inside the gay community. By 1993, the list of companies that allowed domestic partners of the same sex to share benefits included Microsoft, Apple, HBO, Warner Bros., and Borders. By 2007, gay couples who wanted to get married at Disneyland were free to purchase the Fairy Tale Wedding package….
And so a social institution took hold: first among gays themselves, then in the larger community and marketplace. Finally the government took notice.
The real reason for the court to invalidate the law would be that it supposedly has no rational basis and is born of “animus” toward gays. This is the brief against Proposition 8, which was struck down by a federal appellate court, the famously activist Ninth Circuit, on grounds that it has no “legitimate reason.”
In this view, the promoters of Proposition 8 came up with a definition of marriage that has stood for centuries in the West and is endorsed by every major religion simply as an imaginative way to stick it to gay people. Every serious contender in the Democratic presidential primary in 2008, including Barack Obama, supported this same definition, presumably also out of the same simmering hostility to gays.
Supporters of traditional marriage believe that the institution exists as an expression of society’s interest in children’s being raised by their biological fathers and mothers. You can say that this understanding is dated, given what has become of marriage the past 40 years. You can say that it is too pinched, given evolving mores. You can’t say it is inherently hateful.
As the Supreme Court begins to hear oral arguments in cases involving two high-profile laws to do with same-sex marriage – California’s Proposition 8 and the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act -53 percent of Americans think it should be legal for same-sex couples to marry, while 39 percent say it should not be legal.
Although public opinion on this topic has been consistent for the last few months, it has reversed markedly from as recently as a year ago. In May 2012, just after President Barack Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage, 51 percent of Americans said it should not be legal for same-sex couples to marry…
Politically, most Democrats (63 percent) and independents (56 percent) favor legalization of same-sex marriage, while most Republicans (56 percent) do not. Still, support for same-sex marriage among Republicans has increased from just 13 percent in May 2012 (after the President announced his support of same-sex marriage) to 37 percent today.
For right now, it is probably best to treat the question of whether a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage as having an ambiguous answer. Polls are on the verge of saying that they do, but the ballot results are more equivocal.
By 2016, however, voters in 32 states would be willing to vote in support of same-sex marriage, according to the model. And by 2020, voters in 44 states would do so, assuming that same-sex marriage continues to gain support at roughly its previous rate.
Thus, even if one prudently assumes that support for same-sex marriage is increasing at a linear rather than accelerated pace, and that same-sex marriage will not perform quite as well at the ballot booth as in national polls of all adults, the steady increase in support is soon likely to outweigh all other factors. In fact, even if the Supreme Court decision or some other contingency freezes opinion among current voters, support for same-sex marriage would continue to increase based on generational turnover, probably enough that it would narrowly win a national ballot referendum by 2016. It might require a religious revival among the youngest generation of Americans to reverse the trend.
The pace of American acceptance of same-sex marriage rights in the course of less than a decade is staggering. Does anyone doubt that a gay marriage ban, passed by popular vote in California in 2008, would be rejected today by a resounding majority? A national consensus is forming, albeit at varying rates depending on the region, around the notion that denying gay Americans the rights that straight Americans enjoy is anathema. A Supreme Court decision which imposes this notion on the groups and individuals who continue to oppose same-sex marriage rights will give them a grievance to rally around. They will be handed their own injustice and become convinced of their own martyrdom. Such a decision would prolong the conflict that same-sex marriage poses today which, if left to state and national legislatures to remedy, would be a relic of the past in short order.
For gay couples who believe that even one more day is too long to have to wait to have access to the rights that straight couples enjoy, you’re right. But the consequences of imposing this value on the nation’s recalcitrant traditionalists by judicial fiat, if history is any guide, will do the cause of marriage equality far more harm than good.
LOPEZ: If the Supreme Court overturns DOMA and throws out Proposition 8, what will it mean for marriage? What would it mean for religious liberty?
GALLAGHER: It means the Supreme Court takes away the core civil rights of 7 million Californians to vote on the marriage question. It shuts down the question democratically (and also shuts out therefore the religious-liberty provisions that have accompanied most gay-marriage laws in the states). It means our traditional understanding of marriage, cross-cultural and historical, but including the vision of Genesis, will be redefined as bigotry. And marriage will be undefined in a new way. What is marriage? Why is the law involved in marriage? Why only two people? Why not close relatives too old to produce children? All these questions, which have clear answers in our classic understanding of marriage, become unclear and undefined. The answers we will come up with in the future are no longer certain. I suspect the strongest result will be a renewed push to get government out of the marriage business altogether, and Left and Right will come together to complete the de-institutionalization of marriage.
The feminist radical proposal of my youth in the Seventies will become the conservative orthodoxy of my middle age!
I’ve never understood how anyone who spent the past four-plus years lamenting the size of government could then argue for its increase by inviting it into the discussion of marriage. We complain about government in health care, we complain about government in education, we complain about government regulating soft drink size, but suddenly some of us have no problem with more government in people’s relationships with one another. Marriage is a covenant between a man, woman, and God before God on His terms. It is a religious civil liberty, not a right granted by government. It should never have been regulated by government in the first place, and government shouldn’t have an expanded reach in further regulating it now. There is no allowance constitutionally that invites our government to define the religious covenant of marriage.
I’ve no issue with same sex couples entering into contractual agreements with each other or sharing benefits (the military decisions should be made by those with the credit of service day in and day out, not civilian advocacy groups). Isn’t that the goal of this conflict? If so, to me, that’s an issue separate from marriage. In suing over “marriage” itself one is demanding that God change His definition of the union between a man and a woman. If recognition of status, ease with other contractual obligations, and other issues are the issues, why the need to force people of faith to alter recognition of God’s Word on the matter? The people may bend as reeds to lawfare, but God will not. Frankly, I see no point in being on any side other than God’s on any matter, and God is more small government than any player in the scene.
[T]his is a landmark victory for the forces of staid, bourgeois sexual morality. Once gays can marry, they’ll be expected to marry. And to buy sensible, boring cars that are good for car seats. I believe we’re witnessing the high water mark for “People should be able to do whatever they want, and it’s none of my business.” You thought the fifties were conformist? Wait until all those fabulous “confirmed bachelors” and maiden schoolteachers are expected to ditch their cute little one-bedrooms and join the rest of America in whining about crab grass, HOA restrictions, and the outrageous fees that schools want to charge for overnight soccer trips.
I know, it feels like we’re riding an exciting wave away from the moral dark ages and into the bright, judgement free future. But moral history is not a long road down which we’re all marching; it’s more like a track. Maybe you change lanes a bit, but you generally end up back where you started. Sometimes you’re on the licentious, “anything goes” portion near the bleachers, and sometimes you’re on the straight-and-narrow prudish bit in front of the press box. Most of the time you’re in between. But you’re still going in circles. Victorian morality was an overreaction to the rather freewheeling period which proceeded it, which was itself an overreaction to Oliver Cromwell’s puritanism…
Of course, predictions are hard, especially about the future. Nonetheless, here is mine: whatever the Supreme Court decides, gay marriage will soon be legal throughout the land. But this will not mean that we drive ever onwards towards greater sexual freedom–rather, it will mean quite the reverse. The sexual revolution is over. And the revolutionaries lost.