Court's ruling packs a wallop

Court's ruling packs a wallop

The nation's highest court has put the debate on same-sex marriage in a whole new light.

A day after the U.S. Supreme Court issued two major rulings on same-sex marriage, local legislators were speculating about when and whether the General Assembly will resume debate on the issue.

State legislatures are exactly where this issue should be addressed, the people's elected representatives deciding how to resolve the issue rather than unelected judges.

Unfortunately, the high court sent a mixed message on the subject. It first found the now-stricken federal Defense of Marriage Act to be constitutionally defective on federalism grounds because it violated state prerogatives. But it followed with the blunderbuss conclusion that those who, for whatever reason, do not agree with same-sex marriage are hopeless bigots motivated by the basest of instincts.

Ironically, the high court's decision may well encourage some state legislatures to avoid this tough issue and wait for a judicial order legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states.

That's what happened in the early 1970s when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion nationwide. The Roe vs. Wade decision produced decades of political strife by denying state legislatures the opportunity to come up with a democratic solution. But it also exempted nervous legislators from casting meaningful, but politically difficult, votes.

Writing for the court's 5-4 majority, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy foreshadowed a similarly sweeping court ruling on gay marriage when he concluded that supporters of traditional marriage are irrational thinkers motivated solely by ignorance and malice toward homosexuals. Such invidious discrimination, the court ruled, violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

It was a stunning denunciation of those who hold a view of marriage that existed for all of human history until 15 to 20 years ago. Unfortunately, the court's analysis expands the debate beyond same-sex marriage to other marriage options as well as well to freedom of religion.

The court has essentially stated that heterosexuals and homosexuals both have a constitutional right to marry, that their unions with members of the opposite sex or the same sex are preferences that cannot be denied expression in matrimony. But homosexuals are not the only subset of society with non-traditional sexual preferences.

What about those, like a few Mormons, who desire multiple wives as an expression of their religious faith? Why shouldn't bisexuals be permitted to exercise their constitutional right to take a spouse of each sex?

Marriage traditionally has been a matter of state legislative policy; the word isn't even mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. And now that it's entered the realm of constitutional law, it could be a whole new ball game.

So, too, with churches that adhere to the concept of traditional marriage. Leaders of the Catholic Church were apoplectic over what they view as the high court's assault on a God-blessed union of a man and woman; President Obama sought to calm them by announcing that he has no intention of forcing churches to conduct same-sex marriages.

But some supporters of same-sex marriage may well ask why Obama should give churches a pass when they are motivated solely by irrational prejudice. Indeed, that's already occurring. The state of New Jersey recently found that a Methodist Church engaged in public accommodation discrimination when it denied a same-sex couple the right to rent one of its facilities to conduct a civil union ceremony.

"A Christian organization has a constitutional right to use their facilities in a way that is consistent with their beliefs," said a lawyer representing the church.

Well, no, it doesn't, at least not in New Jersey and maybe not anywhere else someday.

The Catholic Church in Illinois thought it could stay in the adoption business through Catholic Social Services because its faith required the agency to place adoptive children in homes with a husband and a wife, not in homes of same-sex couples. The church soon found out otherwise.

Those who think these scenarios a stretch might be reminded that, just 20 years ago, it would have appeared foolish to predict same-sex marriage would soon become a reality. It would have been regarded as even more absurd to predict that the U.S. Supreme Court majority would find that opposition to same-sex marriage is morally and legally indefensible.

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ASchmitt wrote on June 30, 2013 at 8:06 am

I'm glad the News-Gazette took the time to research all of human history to conclude that the only acceptable relationships and marriages ever, anywhere were between one man and one woman. The deep understanding of what bisexuality is should also be highly lauded.

It's also worth noting that a major facet of our system of government is the system of checks and balances. Just because something is democratically decided, doesn't mean that it is correct. The tyranny of the majority is something that can be countered by the Supreme Court, as it just was the other day. By all means, continue to think that same-sex marriage is wrong, just don't conflate your personal morals with the rights that have been set out in the Declaration and the Constitution.

Also, are unelected judges an issue for the editorial staff when they agree with the decision, or is that malice reserved for unpopular (for them) decisions? I didn't agree with the Voting Rights Act decision, but that doesn't mean we need to throw out the system.

spangwurfelt wrote on June 30, 2013 at 11:06 am

"The court has essentially stated that heterosexuals and homosexuals both have a constitutional right to marry, that their unions with members of the opposite sex or the same sex are preferences that cannot be denied expression in matrimony."

The Supreme Court said no such thing. They went out of their way *not* to discuss the issue of the constitutionality of same-sex marriage, they go out of their way to say so in their rulings. That's why the DOMA ruling only matters in states that already have same-sex marriage, and why the Prop 8 ruling only matters in California.

Nice Davis wrote on June 30, 2013 at 9:06 pm

I keep wanting to subscribe to the News-Gazette, but every time I get close they trot out another editorial defending "separate but equal" treatment. I'll be the first to give you fellas my money when you drag your editorial board out of the 1950s. Until then I'll be happy to look for free online (and use my proxy service to get around your new paywall).

spangwurfelt wrote on July 01, 2013 at 8:07 am

I'll pick up the NG at the news stand a few times a week, but you're right, the opinions page seems stuck in the age of Dobie Gillis and Brylcreem. If they're going to be living life in the Wayback Machine, couldn't they at least aim for, oh, 2000 rather than 1950, so that subscribing to their paper doesn't seem so stupid?

Or have they built themselves a hard silo, the famously impervious right-wing bubble, in which they only talk to themselves (i.e. all right-wing columnists) and therefore don't recognize how as a group they're all floating out toward the Sea of Irrelevance?

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on July 01, 2013 at 1:07 am
Profile Picture

John, John & Jim: You look ignorant here.  Do your research.


"a view of marriage that existed for all of human history until 15 to 20 years ago" is your version of events, and certainly propagated by others. It has little to do with reality.


Marriage traditions are far more complex, and far less pleasant, than you may wish to admit/accept. It's mostly about money, and not at all limited to two persons of opposite sex.


Surely you know about the internet. Learn from it.



spangwurfelt wrote on July 01, 2013 at 8:07 am

By the way, if you'd like to measure the yawning chasm between what the Supreme Court said and what the News-Gazette *says* they said although they didn't, here's the actual ruling. Give it a read, and then shake your head at how completely this editorial bobbles it.

SaintClarence27 wrote on July 03, 2013 at 9:07 am

The N-G editorial staff's startling (and possibly willfull) ignorance of homosexuality, bisexuality, gay rights, marriage, constitutional law, and the actual ruling that they purport to be discussing is downright embarrassing. I can only hope that they reign in their personal issues and stop letting laziness dictate how they write.