The Supreme Court rulings yesterday striking down a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 were celebrated by the gay community and Americans who believe in equality, but the truth be told the landmark rulings were insignificant in their impact on the great majority of the population. Still, it hardly lessens the importance and progress toward America becoming a nation where equal rights are extended to all Americans, but neither ruling takes anything whatsoever from the people, and yet same-sex marriage opponents reacted as if the High Court both infringed on their marriages, and robbed them of their religious freedom to persecute the gay community. It is baffling how marriage equality has any effect on heterosexual marriages or abridges anyone’s religious liberty, but the court rulings incited rage in the people least affected by the decisions.
The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act is, in essence, the federal government economically punishing and discriminating against gay couples by denying federal benefits such as joint tax returns, Social Security, health insurance, pension protection, benefits for military couples, and immigration protections for couples from different countries. The basis for one of the most blatant, and government-enforced, discriminatory laws was the religious-right and bible-based prohibition on homosexuality and nothing else. Shortly after the High Court’s ruling was announced, marriage-equality opponents declared the decision “demeaned and demonized” their marriages, but they could not offer even one example or describe how they were debased or humiliated, but they were adamant that is what happened.
The Defense of Marriage Act and Prop 8 are about inequality, state-sanctioned discrimination, and denying gays economic rights, but no-one in government, the media, or justice system is willing to admit the truth that opposition to marriage equality is purely religion-based. If in addition to the blatant inequality of the two cases, the President, members of Congress, gay rights activists, and state-level politicians addressed the cases as the government enforcing a religious standard, the High Court could have summarily struck down DOMA and Prop 8 on 1st Amendment grounds. The reaction of marriage equality opponents informed their outrage is founded in the Court diminishing their power to impose their religion on the nation, and not any perceived assault on their existence.
Michele Bachmann released a statement shortly after the SCOTUS ruling and slammed the Court saying; “Marriage was created by the hand of god. No man, not even a Supreme Court, can undo what a holy God has instituted. What the Court has done will undermine the best interest of the United States.” Another conservative Christian stated, “Today the Supreme Court overruled god” and exposed their failure to understand that neither god nor a religious manual have standing or relevance to the Constitution or law in this United States.
Last week in anticipation of the Court ruling, a group of evangelical leaders released a statement saying they would defy the ruling and begin a crusade to overrule the High Court decision much the same way they assail Roe V. Wade. It is amusing that they will defy the ruling, and perhaps it means they will refrain from marrying someone of the same sex, but they are seriously convinced the decision will adversely affect their marriages. Despite the rulings have no effect on Americans who are not gay, the group promised “We will not allow this to occur,” because they assert the ruling will result in the government using police power to enforce recognition of marriage equality. It is unclear exactly how recognizing gay marriage will require the government to resort to “police power,” or how it is related to “the destruction of the institution of marriage,” but they are convinced the rulings will impose great hardship on traditional marriage proponents.
The Court’s ruling did not, in any conceivable way, take anything away from any American except curtailing religious extremists and Republicans in Congress’s power to punish the LGBT community with laws like DOMA and California’s Proposition 8. In fact, the rulings have absolutely no effect on any American who is not gay, and still, those unaffected ideologues are screaming the loudest they and their rights were eviscerated with the rulings. In California, a group defending Prop 8 claimed they will attack the High Court ruling with renewed enthusiasm in the courts, and one Republican representative, Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), promised he would be filing a constitutional amendment later this week to restore DOMA and likely he is driven by his “strong Catholic Christian faith.”
It was refreshing to note that the majority opinion did cite, and Californians know this well, that the groups appealing lower court rulings had no standing before the High Court because it was a California issue. Throughout the Prop 8 campaign to revoke permission for gays to marry, several religious groups outside of the state (Mormons and Catholics) poured millions of dollars in false television ad campaigns to deny gay couples the same rights as heterosexual couples, so there was some justice in seeing them slapped down by the Court. What was not refreshing was Antonin Scalia’s dissenting screed and one statement in particular displayed the rank hypocrisy he, like all Republicans, is notorious for. He said regarding the majority ruling; “That is jaw-dropping. It is an assertion of judicial supremacy over the people’s Representatives in Congress and the Executive. It envisions a Supreme Court standing (or rather enthroned) at the apex of government, empowered to decide all constitutional questions, always and everywhere ‘primary’ in its role.” It is blatant hypocrisy that Scalia decried the majority ruling a Republican legislation unconstitutional when the day before the conservatives ruled a highly bipartisan voting rights act provision null and void because it served his ALEC and Koch brother cohort’s racist assault on the democratic process.
There were plenty of reasons to celebrate the Court giving same-sex couples the same rights and economic benefits heterosexual couples have enjoyed, and it should never have been an issue those of us who revere equality had to fight for, but for the great majority of Americans, including religious conservatives, the rulings have no effect. However, the frenzied outrage from the religious right and claims the rulings were tantamount to the sky falling informed that their only complaint is the Supreme Court took revoked their power to punish LGBT couples with impunity with assistance and power of the United States Congress. The reality is the rulings only affected a small percentage of the population and renewed some hope that in America equality is applied universally and that may be what bothers same-sex marriage opponents the most. By granting same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples, the Court effectively neutered the religious right’s control over the government and like typical fundamentalists, depriving them of power over a minority was interpreted as an attack on their rights when really, the ruling is meaningless to the great majority of Americans. However, for those who revere equality, it was undoubtedly one of the best High Court rulings in decades.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.