Wednesday, June 26, 2013


The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 today that the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 is unconstitutional. The basis of the decision isn't rocket science; the only amazing things are that a) the Supremes followed through rather than looking for a way to keep the law, and b) they based it in part on a Fifth Amendment equal-liberty argument, which in my naive but not humble opinion, is exactly where it belongs.

Here's Justice Kennedy for the Court:

“DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment,” Kennedy wrote for the Court. “DOMA’s principal effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal.”

Kennedy’s opinion struck down DOMA in part on equal protection and due process grounds, and in part because marriage is a state issue, determining that Congress lacks a constitutional basis not to recognize definitions set by states.

As often happens these days, Justice Kennedy was the swing vote, the rest splitting along usual conservative/"liberal" lines (sorry for the scare quotes, but there are no genuine liberal justices on the Court today). If anyone tells you the judiciary is the nonpolitical branch of government, point them at... well, point them at just about any decision the Court makes these days, including this one.

This may simply shift the gay marriage battleground to individual state constitutions or laws. Even so, it seems nonsensical to me that a couple that is married in one state can be unmarried in another.

And I can't help having a "sufficient unto the day..." feeling about the law. Good riddance to DOMA. It was bad law from the beginning. It had only two bases, hatred and fear, and no measurable positive consequences for American society... none whatsoever. For those who "lost" this battle, what was the upshot? If you don't "believe in" same-sex marriage, you can still refuse to marry a partner of the same sex as yours. Oh, and by the way, if you're that committed to hate and fear, AFAIC, you can go straight to Hell, and soon would be good.

To my LGBTQ friends who have been unable to marry but wanted to do so... my heartfelt best wishes. Now you have a right... a right protected right there in the Bill of Rights... to marry. Just don't save me a piece of cake with icky sugar‑laden icing...


  1. And right-wing heads explode. "But... but... marriage is for procreating! That's why post-menopausal women can't marry! And... and... JESUS!"

    These are sucky times, so I'll take my mirth where I find it, and the Supremes making the religious right's heads explode is plenty mirth.

    1. 'tux, I agree wholeheartedly. As a (retired) musician who happens to be straight, I've worked with literally dozens of gay performers... musicians, dancers, actors (including lesbian thespians), etc., and watched in horror as our society treated them like dirt. Having known that many gay people, I feel I can say with some assurance that they were born that way... nobody turned them gay after-the-fact... and hence discrimination against them is every bit as unacceptable as discrimination based on race.

      The discrimination may not disappear instantly; the tighty-righties hold onto their bigotry for dear life. But as gays marry openly throughout the country, bring up their families in full view of everyone, have their share of successful marriages and unfortunate divorces, etc., gayness will become, in a word, normal... and it will be impossible to maintain a society-wide bigotry against gay people. Good times are coming, at least in this one area!

    2. I was an oddball kid in high school so I sort of hung out with the other oddball kids. A number of whom were gay. Oh, they didn't identify as gay, that would have been dangerous in Redneck Hicksville, but they were gayer than the gay mayor of gay town. They didn't choose to be gay -- believe me, in Redneckistan you do not want to be gay if you have any choice at all in the matter -- but c'mon. Drama? Want to go to trade school to become a hairdresser? For realz?

      And sure enough, as soon as they got out of high school if they didn't go to college they moved to the Montrose district of Houston and came out as gay, and if they did go to college they came out as gay there instead. Gosh, go figure.

      Reminds me of a nice couple I met in Houston in, must have been 1987 or so, my brother and I were sort of short of money but we wanted to attend a trade show and sell some software we'd written, and they volunteered to let us stay with them overnight when we drove in from Lafayette in my rusty old Chevette (we'd chatted in some of the early chat rooms so they weren't total strangers but we'd never met in person before). Very devoted to each other. Both of them worked in oil refineries in blue-collar jobs. One of them asked me what I thought of gay people and I said I thought gay sex was kinda squicky but what people did in the privacy of their bedroom was none of my business, it just did't matter. I don't know what they thought of that long-haired wet-under-the-collar college kid saying that to them. They were in their early 50's then, so they never got to marry and make it official for visitation / inheritance rights / so forth. So it goes.

    3. 'tux - I grew up in (the unfashionable part of) the Montrose. My upstairs neighbors and landlords were almost certainly gay, though as you say, few people were out in those days. The owner of the house had a poster of a naked woman on the wall of his room, I presume just to confuse matters for people who thought it was their business.

      They were my first extended encounter with gay people, and I realized they were a family like any other family, hardworking people, having their ups and downs like anyone else, and caring for each other deeply. It was a lasting impression, and was part of the origin of my lifelong approval of gay people. They're presumably dead now, but I owe them a lot.

      Hatred and prejudice are such a burden, mostly for the haters...



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