The U.S. Supreme Court's acceptance of appeals of 4 SSM cases:
Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, & Tennessee.
Part 2: 2015-JAN-16:
Points of agreement & disagreement about
same-sex marriage (SSM).
Reactions to the Supreme Court's decision
to accept the appeals.
We use the acronym "SSM" to represent "same-sex marriage."
"LGBT" refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons
and transsexuals. "LGB" refers to lesbians, gays, and bisexuals.
Points of agreement by those involved in the marriage equality conflict:
On the topic of same-sex marriage, both sides do agree on two factors:
- Both generally welcome the involvement of the Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS). The high court is expected to issue a ruling in mid-2015 that will settle the marriage equality conflict uniformly across the nation, at least for a while.
- Both sides agree that It is the responsibility of each state to define who is eligible to marry. For example, some states allow first cousins to marry even though children that they produce have approximately twice the risk of suffering a birth defect when compared to couples who are unrelated. States also have set different minimum ages for potential spouses, different waiting intervals, etc.
Disagreement over whether a high court ruling will be permanent:
Many commentators have implied that if the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage across the entire country in mid-2015, then the matter will be permanently settled. That is not necessarily true. There is always the possibility that the high court might overturn their decision at some later time. During 1986, in Bowers v. Hardwick, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a Georgia statute that criminalized all same-gender sexual behavior -- even activity between consenting adults in private. Seventeen years later, in 2003, the high court reversed its Bowers decision as the result of the Lawrence v. Texas case.
One could conceive of a situation in which the high court issues a ruling in mid-2015 that legalizes marriage by same-sex couples in all 50 states. A Republican President could be elected in 2016, take office in 2017-JAN, and subsequently nominate one or more conservative judges to vacant positions on the U.S. Supreme Court. The court could later reconsider a case involving a ban on same-sex marriage, and reverse their 2015 ruling as they did in Bowers.
In order to determine how likely the high court might reverse a decision, we can scan the last two centuries and consider the four instances when marriage in the U.S. was redefined to allow a previously discriminated against group to marry:
- At the end of the Civil War, former slaves were allowed to freely marry for the first time, and remained so.
- In early 20th century, laws that had been passed in some states prohibiting marriages between profoundly deaf persons were all repealed. Such couples have been able to marry ever since.
- In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized interracial marriage across the country. Such marriages have remained legal ever since.
- In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage. The number of states who have attainted marriage equalilty is currently 36. There were two states where same-sex marriage was subsequently banned, but was later restored. California is the most obvious example.
Thus, if the high court were to legalize SSM across the country, past experience shows that theirdecision will probably stick. However, nothing is ever absolutely permanent in law.
Other fundamental differences in the beliefs about marriage equality:
- Many of those who oppose marriage equality believe that the United States is a pure democracy, where the wishes of the voters are the highest authority in the land. The ballot box or the state legislature is the appropriate place to resolve conflicts. The courts should not interfere.
- In contrast, those who favor marriage equality generally believe that the U.S. Constitution is the highest authority in the land. When a state defines which couples are eligible to marry, their definition must not violate the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It is a responsibility of the state and federal court systems to determine when a law or a state constitutional amendment violates the federal Constitution.
Also, they generally do not believe that the fundamental human rights should be granted or withheld as the result of a vote by the public. One of the most important of these rights is the right to marry the person that one loves, and promises to support for the rest of their life.
- Many who oppose SSM quote the margins by which state constitutional amendments to ban SSM were passed by the voters, even though the vote was often taken in 2004 or 2008 and public opinion has shifted greatly since then.
- Many who favor SSM quote data from recent public opinion polls. These typically show that a majority of voters -- both nationally and in most states -- now favor marriage equality.
Diverse reactions by various individuals and groups concerning the decision by the high court to hear appeals:
- The Obama Administration: Josh Gerstein, writing for Politico.com, said:
"When the Supreme Court announced Friday that it plans to wade into the issue of a federal right to same-sex marriage, the White House remained silent. In fact, on the eve of the announcement, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest declined to state the president’s views on the legal issues, though the spokesman said the president would welcome wider availability of same-sex marriage.
[Attorney General] Holder was more direct, announcing that the administration will urge the court to make same-sex marriage rights the law of the land.
'We expect to file a ‘friend of the court’ brief in these cases that will urge the Supreme Court to make marriage equality a reality for all Americans,' Holder said in a statement Friday. 'It is time for our nation to take another critical step forward to ensure the fundamental equality of all Americans — no matter who they are, where they come from, or whom they love'." 1
- James Esseks, of the American Civil Liberties Union -- the largest group in the U.S. promoting equal rights for all -- said:
"This is the beginning of the end game on the freedom to marry." 2
- Chad Griffin, is president of the Human Rights Campaign -- the largest national group promoting equal rights for the LGBT community. He said:
"We've reached the moment of truth. The facts are clear. The arguments have been heard by dozens of courts, and now the nine justices of the Supreme Court have an urgent opportunity to guarantee fairness for countless families, once and for all." 2
- Brian Brown is head of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). It is the main national anti-SSM group in the U.S. He emailed a news release that said:
"We are very pleased that the Supreme Court has chosen to review the 6th Circuit's ruling that found in favor of voters' right to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. It is time for the 50 million Americans who stood for marriage in 30 states to have their day in court. We are confident that the Supreme Court has chosen the 6th Circuit case in order to affirm the finding of the Appeals court, just as it did in the cases of Windsor v. United States and Sabelius v. Hobby Lobby. We will be watching this case closely and anticipate an eventual victory for the democratic process, religious liberty, and the cherished institution of [opposite-sex] marriage which forms the very bedrock of our society." 3
- James Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the Ohio case said:
"I can't wait to walk up those steps and have the Supreme Court understand that we're just like everyone else." 2
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Josh Gerstein, "Will the Supreme Court cement Obama's gay rights legacy?" Politico, 2015-JAN-17, at: http://www.politico.com/
- Richard Wolf, "Supreme Court agrees to rule on gay marriage," USA Today, 2015-JAN-16, at: http://www.usatoday.com/
- "BREAKING: Supreme Court will decide marriage cases," Email from the National Organization for Marriage, 2015-JAN-16 PM.
How you may have arrived here:
Copyright © 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
First posted: 2015-JAN-16
Latest update: 2015-JAN-18
Author: B.A. Robinson