On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to deny several lower courts’ appeals to uphold state bans on same-sex marriage, effectively legalizing marriage equality in 25 states and counting. At a time when domestic violence is so common and horror stories like this murder-suicide in Indiana make me question why some people get married in the first place, shouldn’t our society be discussing the elements of a respectful relationship and good parenting? The focus on defining whether marriage should be a union between one man and one woman ignores the reality that the overall institution could be improved.
All we’re really doing by delaying same-sex marriage rights is keeping attorneys for all sides busy and giving politicians a wedge issue to distract them from other matters.
The bottom line is a sea change in public opinion that has led even more states to lift their bans on same-sex marriage. See the Associated Press interactive below.
[do action=”custom_iframe” url=”http://hosted.ap.org/interactives/2014/gay-marriage/?SITE=wasee” width=”630″ height=”500″ scrolling=””/]
As The Seattle Times editorial board pointed out in Wednesday’s editorial:
The fact that couples in the other states do not enjoy that same right (to marry) is an issue the high court will have to revisit. That inequity is untenable. A uniform ruling is necessary to end discrimination by states.
Take Monday’s decision to deny seven petitions as a sign the high court is not ready to weigh in. Still, no ruling this term is better than the risk of conservative justices knocking down recent gains on one of the major social issues of our time.
The swing vote on the divided court is Justice Anthony Kennedy. On Wednesday morning, as many prepared to celebrate the first married couples in Idaho, Kennedy blocked a lower court’s order allowing the weddings. For more than a dozen couples and their supporters in Boise, joy turned to despair.
The photo below should be displayed alongside Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s beaming face in the history books. As a former journalist and five-year resident of that great state, I want the next generation of children to see the consequences of a governor’s determination to block law-abiding citizens from a legal right many others take for granted.
If the partners pictured above had entered the Ada County Courthouse in Boise as one man and one woman, they would not be bawling in the arms of friends and family. They would be proudly holding up their marriage certificate on the steps outside, toasting love and eating cake. (Read the Associated Press and Idaho Statesman news report.) Alas, Idaho’s Constitution unfairly dictates that same-sex couples are not treated equal, and Idaho’s top leaders appear hell-bent on making sure they never are.
The well-regarded SCOTUSblog is following Idaho’s legal actions and has reached a couple interesting conclusions. First, Idaho wants the court “to issue a final, definitive ruling on whether the [federal] Constitution allows states to ban same-sex marriage.” We’re in agreement there. But here’s the part from that same post that is worrisome:
Idaho’s application also said that, if it can get its case before the Supreme Court, it would also seek to argue that Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage is not actually a law that discriminates against sexual orientation. It is a law that favors man-woman marriage, and thus it would allow a gay or lesbian person to get married to a person of the opposite sex.
So Idaho wants to make it okay for gay and lesbian individuals to wed, just not to the person they actually love and are committed to? That makes no sense and turns marriage into a farce.
There’s still hope for Gov. Otter to go the graceful route other state leaders have taken, including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert. On Monday, those Republicans recognized the inevitable truth that they were on the wrong side of a losing battle. Both gave up their legal fights against marriage equality.
Otter should do the same.
Just one state over, Washington voters joined a national movement when they affirmed same-sex marriage rights two years ago. One of the leaders of that movement, Ed Murray, is now the mayor of Seattle. He is married to his partner. After this week’s news cycle, I’ve never been more proud to live in a place where individuals are allowed to live honestly and with the same protections afforded to straight people.
Gay marriage is here to stay and the people of this state are doing just fine. To our neighbors in Idaho, I bet you’ll be okay, too.