With the oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Windsor (relating to the Defense of Marriage Act) and Hollingsworth v. Perry (relating to California’s Proposition 8) scheduled this week, same-sex marriage has been the focus of nearly every media outlet I follow. On Facebook, my friends churn out continuous commentary on what the Court may or may not do in these landmark cases. Everyone has an opinion.
The only people in my life who don’t seem to care about the issue are my children, who are far too young to grasp the discrimination at the heart of these cases. To them, a family with two moms or two dads is just another family. That family looks different from their own family, but they know “it’s okay to be different.” In fact, as I’ve discussed before, Todd Parr’s It’s Okay To Be Different is one of their favorite books and one of many books we have that reflect and reinforce the importance of embracing diversity.
Is it any wonder why individuals resistant to change attempt to remove books like Parr’s from library shelves and school curricula? The exposure to new ideas can be a very dangerous thing for the close-minded and insecure. I can only imagine how “scary” the world must look to the Rick Santorums of the world who want to return to the days when every state criminalized same-sex sexual activity. That was only fifty years ago.* The Defense of Marriage Act, which allows states to refuse to recognize other states’ same-sex marriages, is only 17 years old, and California’s Proposition 8, defining marriage as between a man and a woman, is only five. But progress has been made, too, with a growing number of states recognizing same-sex marriages and civil unions. Now, polls indicate strong support for same-sex marriage among Americans born within the last 32 years.
Whatever the Court decides to do in Windsor and Hollingsworth — which could be anything from maintaining the discriminatory status quo to striking down marriage bans — I believe our society will continue, in the long term, on the path towards justice and equality, and societal acceptance of same-sex couples will continue to expand. I hope my own children’s inclusive attitudes are an indication of what the future will hold.
*Those interested in this topic may want to check out my friend Theo Fenraven’s ghost story, A Silence Kept, which reminds us all not to romanticize the past. Quite frankly, I would prefer to live in the future.
The U.S. Supreme Court heard the oral argument in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the case challenging the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8. Justice Kennedy, often the swing vote, wondered why the Court agreed to hear the case at all, and Lyle Denniston has said that Kennedy “appeared troubled about the Court entering ‘uncharted waters,’ on the core issue of who may marry.”
In my opinion, if the Court punts this case, they are a bunch of cowards. Marriage is a fundamental right in our Constitution and not something we should determine by popular vote, state by state. That said, popular opinion is shifting in favor of marriage equality, with more support for same-sax marriage than opposition to it, and this issue may be another example of how unrepresentative our Court is of the American people. We’ll see what side of history they want to be on.
By the way, because I mentioned Facebook in this post, the image on the left is a snapshot of what my page looks like today (for those who don’t know, the equal sign shows support for same-sex marriage).
UPDATE (3/27/13): The U.S. Supreme Court heard the arguments in Windsor, the DOMA case. It is likely DOMA will be struck down.
UPDATE (6/27/13): The U.S. Supreme Court announced its rulings in Windsor and Perry. In Windsor, in a 5-4 decision, the Court court struck down DOMA. In Perry, the Court avoided the issue on jurisdictional grounds, thereby allowing gay marriages to resume in California. Overall, a good day at the Supreme Court (after an otherwise dismal term for anyone who isn’t a corporation), but it doesn’t change the fact that my home state continues to discriminate against gay couples. We still have a lot of work to do (at least now we have the broad language in Windsor to help us along!).