Friday, June 26, 2015

Marriage Equality Codified by SCOTUS; Cons Apoplectic

In the culmination of decades of struggle, activism and courtroom battles, the right for same-sex couples to marry is finally the law of the land. The decision was met by cheers and tears from its many advocates and fire and brimstone condemnation from its detractors, including the four conservative justices that lost this battle. Justice Kennedy fittingly delivered the decision as one of the staunchest legal defenders of gay rights, including authorship of all three of the Supreme Court’s previous gay rights landmarks including United States v. Windsor, which struck down a federal law denying benefits to married same-sex couples, and Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down laws making gay sex a crime.

Among the SCOTUS dissenters, with each filing their own brief, Chief Justice Roberts claimed the decision was not supported by a constitution that had “nothing to do with it” and Scalia, in more bellicose language, claimed, “The opinion is couched in a style that is as pretentious as its content is egotistic. Of course the opinion’s showy profundities are often profoundly incoherent.” The latter is rather ironic in that Scalia famously sided with those throwing their own federalist ideologies in the garbage pail to hand the presidency to George Bush and the former given that Roberts has given unprecedented powers to corporations, which aren’t mentioned anywhere in the constitution either.

The level of vitriol was, of course, raised several notches when we move to the candidates for the Republican presidential nomination or among conservative pundits. Among the lowlights let’s start with the most obvious and egregious of exhibits, Donald Trump, who tweeted “"Once again the Bush appointed Supreme Court Justice John Roberts has let us down. Jeb pushed him hard! Remember!” obviously failing to read the news that Roberts actually did dissent the decision. Right wing loon and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said the decision, “will pave the way for an all out assault against the religious freedom rights of Christians who disagree with this decision. This ruling must not be used as pretext by Washington to erode our right to religious liberty.” As with many other conservatives, the skewed idea of freedom here is that people should have the freedom to take freedom away from others based on their religious beliefs and to discriminate without regard for the law or the fact that the other person is a human being.

Mike Huckabee decided to go a step further, calling for insurrection with this stirring message of hate: “The Supreme Court has spoken with a very divided voice on something only the Supreme Being can do—redefine marriage. I will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch. We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat.” In a substantially more measured response that still implied some of the ideas of Huckabee and Jindal, Jeb Bush said, "Guided by my faith, I believe in traditional marriage,” then added, “lov[ing] our neighbor and respect[ing] others. It is now crucial that as a country we protect religious freedom and the right of conscience and also not discriminate."
Some more pragmatic responses looked at the decision as an opportunity to move on to other, more pressing, concerns. Commentator Noah Rothman tweeted, “In coming weeks, don’t mistake bluster for policy or irredentism for a platform. The SSM wedge is off the table, and the GOP better off for it.” And the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin concurred, claiming, “Socons can attend to shabby state of heters marriage, to poverty and to other matters of both relig and soc concern.” Andrew Sullivan and The New Republic congratulated themselves on their long support for marriage equality. And many others essentially voiced varying degrees of the same sentiment.

At the extreme end of responses, WorldNetDaily founder and editor Joseph Farah issued an emergency plea to governors today asking them to consider seceding from the union if the Supreme Court strikes down state bans on same-sex marriage: “We need a Promised Land. We need an Exodus strategy,” Farah wrote. “Are there any governors or legislatures out there among the 50 states willing to secede to offer a refuge for the God-fearing?” If not, Farah says that foreign nations that prohibit same-sex marriage should prepare for “a pilgrimage by millions of Americans” fleeing marriage equality (Right Wing Watch). This sort of rhetoric, once largely reserved for those fighting injustice and inequality, has become the norm for the right-wing of the conservative movement in this country, further solidifying the political insularity and insane gay and racial panic that keeps them relevant in a contemporary world trying to move on from their atavistic worldview.

I’ve always thought this was one of the more absurd debates in the country, given that the 14th Amendment to the constitution (the equal protection clause) appears to be clear in banning discrimination of any kind based on a person’s race, class or sexual preference. It does indicate the continuing importance of religion in our lives both inside and outside the political sphere, but the decision also comports with a profound change of opinion in the country over the past decade or so, moving from a population where in 2004 every state that had a gay marriage ban proposition passed it, along with voting for Bush’s “reelection,” to a majority of the country supporting marriage equality today. The right will scream their indignation in the streets and gain a few votes along the way, but might find themselves losing more and more ground in not only the demographic shift of the country but its cultural wars as well. I’ll conclude with the stirring conclusion of Kennedy’s decision …


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