The Supremes and getting married

Marriage is several things.  It is a contract between two people recognized by the state and it is a spiritual and, for some, a religious bond.  When my parents were married in a Buddhist ceremony, one of their friends, a Jewish lawyer, is alleged to have said in a stage whisper, “It doesn’t matter what ritual is used, it’s still just a contract.”  I wish I had thought to ask him about this when I became an adult, but true or not it makes a nice story.

Yes, same sex couples can live together and in some places they can have a recognized civil union which may provide some benefits, but it is not the same as being married.  I can tell you from personal experience that they create very different states of mind.  Being married provides a level of comfort and security just living together does not.  And part of this comes from marriage being a contract.  Yes, all types of relationships fail and they fail for as many reasons as there are failures, but marriages are more difficult to sever therefore can provide more of a base on which a relationship can grow.

I’ve been writing about gay marriage as states are added to the list and I’ve been watching the attitude of the country toward gay marriage change.  Chris Cillizza posted two helpful charts on his Washington Post blog, the Fix.

Pretty amazing change is a relatively short period of time.  And Democrats have gone from not wanting to touch the issue to running for office supporting gay marriage in the space of one presidential election cycle.  This change was reflected at the ballot box.  I am happy that Washington State, Maryland, and Maine voted to legalize same sex marriage, but I still have this voice in the back of my head that says equal rights are not something that should be determined by a majority vote.

The Boston Globe reported

Last month, Washington, Maine, and Maryland became the first states to pass same-sex marriage by popular vote. They joined six other states — New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont — and the District of Columbia that had already enacted laws or issued court rulings permitting same-sex marriage.

And now the Supreme Court will be ruling on the issue.  The New York Times explains

One of the cases, from California, could establish or reject a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. The justices could also rule on narrower grounds that would apply only to marriages in California.

The second case, from New York, challenges a federal law that requires the federal government to deny benefits to gay and lesbian couples married in states that allow such unions.

The California case was brought by the two lawyers who were on opposing sides in the infamous, Bush v. Gore case, Ted Olson and David Boies.  The second case is one of several that challenged the Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA.  It is interesting that the Massachusetts case is not the one being heard.

There was reason to think that Justice Elena Kagan was not free to hear an appeal from the Boston case because she had worked on it or a related case as United States solicitor general. The current solicitor general, Donald B. Verrilli Jr., gave the court a number of other options, including Windsor, probably partly to make sure that a case of such importance could be heard by a full nine-member court.

Edith Windsor of New York sued to be treated as a surviving spouse

The Obama Administration is not defending DOMA.

Chris Cillizza ended his post with this thought.

Go deeper into the Pew numbers — and thanks to Pew, you can! —  and you see why those trend lines won’t be reversing themselves.  In 2011-2012, 62 percent of people 18-29 supported gay marriage — by far the strongest support among any age group. During that same time period, just 32 percent of those 65 or older supported gay marriage.

The simple truth: Support for gay marriage tracks directly with age. The younger you are, the more likely you are to support it. Given that, it’s hard to imagine gay marriage getting less popular as the years go on.

Whatever the Supreme Court does with its two gay marriage cases next year, the die has been cast on the politics of the issue. By the 2016 presidential election, this could well be a decided issue that neither party — yes, that includes Republicans — spends much time talking about.

My guess is that the Supreme Court will overturn DOMA and rule that states can allow gay marriage if they want.  We will see in a few months if I’m right.

Photograph – Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times

4 thoughts on “The Supremes and getting married

  1. Interesting also to note, considering that opponents of same sex marriage often argue that “traditional” marriage is one man and one woman only, that polygamy in fact was the traditional form of marriage for thousands of years (see Old Testament) and still is in many parts of this world. But polygamy is based upon the notion that the woman is chattel, i.e. property, and the man may own as many wives, or cattle for that matter, as he can support. On the other hand, marriage as many people understand it today is not an ownership deal but a mutual contract between two persons. We have evolved….

  2. So if the state can’t stop two men or two women from getting married, how can they stop one man and three women from getting hitched? If its discriminatory and a violation of the 14th Amendment assurance of equal protection before the law to tell two men they can’t get married, how can it then somehow be lawful for the state to tell polygamists they cannot have multiple spouses? How can it be?

    Answer: it can’t be. If the 14th Amendment somehow or another intended for “equal protection” to enable anyone to marry anybody they wanted to, then that goes for polygamists too. How can anyone possibly argue otherwise? Is that the kind of society you want?

    If that is the society you want, so be it. But polygamy will be arriving shortly after same sex marriage.

    • I don’t think that allow two people of the same sex has anything to do with recognizing polygamy or marriage between a human and non-human. But having heard your argument many times, and still not seeing anything rational in it, I thank you for your opinion.

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