The silver lining in theory for SSM opponents is that this’ll give Greg Abbott a little something extra to run on in a very red state. In practice, though, the polling is sufficiently mixed — 37 percent of Texans supported gay marriage and another 28 percent supported civil unions as of last year — that Abbott’s chosen to keep things low-key out of the gate:
AG @GregAbbott_TX says state will appeal SSM ruling & also "This is an issue on which there are good, well-meaning people on both sides."
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) February 26, 2014
Here’s the ruling. By now, if you’ve read one of these decisions, you’ve read ’em all. Sometimes they find a violation of equal protection, sometimes they find a violation of equal protection and of due process insofar as the right to marry is “fundamental.” Sometimes they find that gays are a “suspect class” deserving of special protection for purposes of EP analysis, sometimes they skip that part and find that bans on gay marriage have no rational basis and therefore it doesn’t matter how you classify gays. The judge in Texas, a Clinton appointee, took the latter route in both cases. The basic point is always the same, though: Federal courts don’t see any compelling reason to restrict marriage to straights only. Procreation’s not compelling because marriage isn’t limited to child-bearing straights. The idea that gay marriage will discourage marriage generally isn’t compelling, partly because there isn’t enough evidence and partly because the no-fault-divorce revolution shows that most states are fine in other contexts with making it easier for marriages to split up. The definitional argument, that “marriage” necessarily means opposite genders, was dismissed by the court in today’s decision this way:
The only semi-novelty in the Texas ruling is that the court also reached the question of whether Texas is required to recognize gay marriages recorded in other states, a subject that doesn’t always come up in these cases. Answer: Yes, for all the same reasons listed above, which means that the main ruling on Texas’s own marriage law is largely irrelevant. If state A has no choice but to recognize a gay marriage recorded in state B, then its options are either to rescind recognition of out-of-state marriage altogether, keep the status quo and force its gay residents to take a vacation to get married, or simply legalize the practice itself. None of those are ideal if you oppose SSM.
If you want to read something new and interesting on this subject rather than slog through another cookie-cutter court ruling, have a look at Pew’s new survey of changing American attitudes on this subject. Lots of interesting results in the crosstabs, some of them counterintuitive. For instance, although support for SSM has risen steadily, that doesn’t mean the trend lines move the same way on every question:
I would not have guessed that, as the nation gradually finds gay marriage more acceptable, it finds a federal solution less acceptable and actually perceives more discrimination against gays even as their rights expand. On the other hand, some results are very intuitive. The first one here is the big one:
The more people realize that they have gay friends, the more opposition to gay marriage softens. That’s the whole political strategy to “coming out.” It works.