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The Supreme Court Speaks
column publisher’s editorial
The real question before the highest court of our land,
on June 26, 2015, was whether a state law providing that
marriage is an institution only available to men and
women could be sustained as constitutional.
Of course not, and it really is shameful and disgraceful
that four learned justices thought otherwise. It means that
while we may have five votes on the Supreme Court, we
still need to persuade a lot of other Americans.
Discrimination against gay men and women in the
U.S . has always been inherently vicious and morally
unconscionable. Last week, marriage inequality became
legally unacceptable. Sewn into the moral fiber of the law,
it will eventually become socially improper as well.
Domestic unions and civil partnerships were the straight
world’s way of saying our lives were being ‘tolerated.' The
Supreme Court’s determination is a decision that says
‘tolerance' is intolerable. The hand was never theirs to
give, and the arm is rightfully ours. We have always been
entitled to nothing less than unconditional acceptance
and outright equality.
As women learned with Roe v. Wade and abortion, we
still have a ways to go.
Women have the right to vote, even though it took a
constitutional amendment to make it happen. Women
have a right to control decisions about their bodies,
though it took a Supreme Court decision to preserve and
protect that right.
African Americans are no longer three fifths of a citizen,
even though our Constitution once read that way. They
serve in our military too, though it took a presidential
order to do so. Interracial marriages are now legal, and
African American students attend public schools and
colleges, even though it took federal troops and this court
to insure that equality.
Our nation fought a civil war to ensure that the
Emancipation Proclamation protected the rights of
African Americans. As we learned last week, even the flag
that fought for slavery took over one hundred years to
take down. It represented racism and injustice.
Last week, we saw a new flag rise. It isn’t just a rainbow.
It is the color of equality. America is a nation of growth and
acceptance. Our constitution is an evolving document,
which has changed to meet a new time. It has not been
easy all the time, not for gays, not for women, not for
African-Americans. But we are all getting there.
We are not alone. Americans with disabilities now
have access to campuses and public institutions, by law,
by statute, and by moral imperative, even though it took
legislation to enact and ensure it. For decades, many
classes of Americans remained unprotected by law or
statute, and it has fallen upon the Supreme Court to
implement and ensure those protections. Barely, by one
slim vote, it did so last week.
As the Supreme Court suggested in Lawrence vs. Texas,
its decision declaring sodomy laws to be illegal, our society
comes together as a society not to restrict the rights of
any, but rather to secure the rights of all.
Laws ought to give Americans the right to marry and
divorce, not based on a zip code- or the gender of the
persons whose pants they unzip. It’s no one’s business
where you live or who you love. That’s your call, not a
pastor’s or a parent.
The decision to declare gay marriages legal does
not turn the Constitution on its face. It ensures again
that the document embraces a new era of equal rights
for all, repairing the errors of the past while ensuring
sound principles for the future. It means that millions of
Americans can lend marriage authenticity to their lives.
There is no rational basis for treating same-sex couples
any differently then opposite-sex couples, whether in a
courtroom or a bedroom. The Defense of Marriage Act did
not protect religious liberty any more than some of those
discriminatory laws passed in the last few years under that
This is also why Proposition 8, barring same-sex
marriages, also failed as a matter of law. It unjustly
discriminated against same-sex couples, to perfect their
love with civil unions and contracts already granted to
opposite-sex couples. American law promotes equality. It
cannot protect inequality.
We did not allow the governor of Mississippi the right
to deny James Meredith entrance into Ole Miss in 1962
because the Caucasian public disapproved of Negroes
in a state university. Nor can some court clerks now say,
as they are doing in Alabama, that they will refuse to
issue same sex licenses. These guys ought to be held in
contempt, locked up, and jailed. The Supreme Court has
ruled. Those clerks are now not only on the wrong side of
history. They are on the wrong side of the law.
While we have won a cross section of legal freedoms
at home, let’s not forget how wrongly our lives and our
liberties are abused abroad. Together, we can fight against
LGBT discrimination in Eastern Europe as loudly as we
stood against apartheid in South Africa. We can oppose
soccer tournaments in Qatar, and Olympics in Russia.
We can financially support the efforts of the Harvey Milk
Foundation as it carries its message of international LGBT
equality around the globe.
In Turkey, the gay pride rally last week was met by brutal
police who attacked demonstrators, desecrating the LGBT
flag and beating up rallygoers. We can’t allow for that. We
can’t turn a blind eye. We have to stand up and be counted.
In 1968, Robert F. Kennedy ran for U.S . President,
but was slain. He spoke often in his short campaign of
America’s opportunity ‘to seek a newer world.’ He quoted
George Bernard Shaw often, an author who once wrote
“Some people see things as they are and ask why. I see
things as they can be, and ask why not?”
The liberties we won in the U.S. last week can also be
won in Lithuania and Kenya someday, maybe even in
Alabama. Why not? That new world is still ours to take.
Photo: Devon Sayers, CNN.
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