BY WILLIAM C. HENRY As just about everyone knows by now, the Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments on the constitutionality of the federal government’s Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA) or as I like to call it, Deprival Of Matrimony Act. If ever a SCOTUS finding in favor of the plaintiff(s) appeared to be a slam dunk, this would be the one. No less than the First and Second Circuit Court of Appeals and eight other federal courts have already found most of DOMA’s constituent parts to be unconstitutional. So why all the blather and bother? Well, when four and a half of the nine sitting in judgement are relics of the Stone Age, I suppose it’s reasonable to be circumspect.
More interesting to me, however, were the previous day’s oral arguments on the challenge to California’s Proposition 8. That’s the Golden State’s voter-approved version of a ban on same-sex marriage. Its supporters say the court should respect the verdict of California voters who approved the ban in 2008 and let the fast-changing politics of gay marriage evolve on their own, through ballot measures and legislative action, not judicial decrees. That’s sweet talk for “kindly stay the fuck out of our bigotry” for you folks in Sheboygan. With that in mind, here are a few questions of my own for the robed ones, particularly those with a reddish hue: Do you think it’s all right for religionists to legislate or ballot inequality as they’ve already done vis-a-vis same-sex marriage in some 38 states? Do you feel it acceptable for religionists to determine what degree of equality will be apportioned to whom according to which of these United States an individual happens to call home? Do you believe it permissible for religionists to determine equality concordant with their interpretation of Biblical law (that would obviously be the most prevalent type) rather than the Constitutional kind? If you folks aren’t to be the ultimate adjudicators of equality in this country, then who? The voters? That’s certainly worked out well in the past, hasn’t it?
Clearly the times they are a-changin’. For proof the momentum has clearly shifted in favor of marriage equality consider the number of politically expedient reversals of opinion on the subject. Since we can presume to know how a majority of liberals and conservatives now vibrate on the matter, I’ll skip to those u-turns of a rather startling nature. One of the most so was that of Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) who once made the “A list” to become Romney’s running mate. The Senator’s son had come out of the closet recently so Rob ruminated that this was no doubt the opportune time to take the plunge. “I have come to believe that if two people are prepared to make a lifetime commitment to love and care for each other in good times and in bad, the government shouldn’t deny them the opportunity to get married.” Really? Where the hell were you and the rest of your ilk for decades previously when thousands of other parents anguished over their sons and daughters unequal treatment?
And it isn’t just Republicans doing the flip flop. Notable Democrat bandwagoners include both Clintons (President Bill signed DOMA into law), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Mark Warner (D-VA), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Jon Tester (D-MT), Kay Hagen (D-NC), Mark Begich (D-AK), and none other than President Barak Obama himself. It’s worth remembering that there are only four rationales for any politician “awakening” to truth, justice and the American way on a controversial subject: 1) trustworthy current polling data, 2) an immediate family member being directly affected, 3) the relative political “safety” of the state or district he or she represents, 4) he or she won’t be running for re-election. It’s really just that simple. Seldom if ever are there any altruistic motives involved. Politics doesn’t lend itself to the humane. And those four posits apply equally well in the opposite. There are some twenty House Democrats who are apparently quite comfortable with circling their wagons. Bigotry can be an equal opportunity panderer.
I could probably write a novella on this topic but I don’t want to risk boring anyone. It’s too important. Instead I’ll leave you with some of the most apropos words ever offered on the subject:
When I was 13 years old, my beautiful mother and my father moved me from a conservative Mormon home in San Antonio, Texas, to California, and I heard the story of Harvey Milk. And it gave me hope. It gave me the hope to live my life; it gave me the hope that one day I could live my life openly as who I am and that maybe even I could fall in love and one day get married. Most of all, if Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he’d want me to say to all of the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told they are less than (equal) by their churches, or by the government, or by their families, that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value. And that no matter what everyone tells you, God does love you, and that very soon, I promise you, you will have equal rights federally across this great nation of ours.
One can only hope so. Thank you, Dustin Lance Black. I couldn’t possibly have said it any better myself.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Fed up early stage septuagenarian who has actually been most of there and done most of that. Born and raised in the picturesque Pocono Mountains. Quite well educated. Very lucky to have been born into a well-schooled and somewhat prosperous family. Long divorced. One beautiful, brilliant daughter. Two far above average grandsons. Semi-retired (how does anyone manage to do it completely these days?) and fully-tired of bullshit. Uncle of the Editor-In-Chief.