By Sanika Puranik
Today, June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court made history by striking down sections of the Defense of Marriage Act and ruling ‘no standing’ on Proposition 8. Before DOMA was partially dismantled, same-sex couples in the Unites States of America were not given the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples. Proposition eight presented similar roadblocks to those seeking equality by banning same-sex marriage in California altogether.
In taking no judgment on the Prop 8 case, the Supreme Court effectively adopted the decision of the lower Sacramento County court, which had done away with Prop 8, declaring it unconstitutional and unfair toward same-sex couples. Despite minor setbacks and caveats, today is a day of enormous success and pride for the LGBT community and its supporters, and frankly, I believe it should be celebrated throughout the country not only as an achievement for marriage equality but for forward progress in general.
As we’ve seen through post Civil-War legislation regarding slavery, Cold War legislation regarding education, Muckraker laws regarding industrial corruption and even legislation regarding economic stability, societal change comes in large batches of rapid advancement. These crucial developments, I believe, are only catalysts in what will be a decade long series of laws to fully grants same-sex couples the rights they deserve.
America has come a long way since the issue of Lesbian-Gay-Transgender-Bisexual, or LGTB, rights began. In a national poll conducted by May Gallup, 27 percent of Americans thought gay marriage should be legal in the US in 1996, a stark contrast to the 53 percent of Americans who think gay marriage should be legal in 2013 according to the same poll. But that still leaves 47 percent of a country of 313.9 million people—147.5 million people. Of course some of those inadvertently included in that number may not have participated in the survey or may be indifferent to the cause, but those who feel strongly against same-sex marriage have insisted on raining on the beautiful pride parade marching across the nation. After all, haters will hate.
Several Republican leaders have expressed distaste and disappointment with the Supreme Court’s decisions today. Michele Bachmann, a Republican member of the House of Representatives from Minnesota and former presidential candidate, wrote that “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 children and the best interests of the United States.” Notoriously conservative talker Rush Limbaugh chimed in saying it represented “the disintegration of the United States.”
Take a moment to reread that and let its absurdity set in. Personally, I cannot see how extending marriage equality to more citizens in the United States undermines the best interest of the country, a country founded on the principles of equality and right to the pursuit of happiness. If anything, it helps to United States strive to be the country it promises to be: free and equal for all. Eventually Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi had the last laugh when a reporter asked for her thoughts on Bachmann’s message to which she responded with an eye roll and a frank, “Who cares?” Because, really, on a day when history is made, who does?
Other Republican leaders have taken a far more liberal approach—no pun intended—to addressing their disappointment. John Boehner, the Republican Speaker of the House who spent millions advocating against same-sex marriage, expressed disappointment, but recognized the system of checks and balances that gives the Supreme Court the final say in such decisions.
Similarly, Republican Senator John Cornyn from Texas and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, of Virginia, expressed hope that the states will define marriage in the most conservative fashion, but also acknowledged the Supreme Court’s power.
“Like it or not, the Supreme Court is the final word on constitutional matters,” Cornyn said in an interview with CNN.
For the most part, Republican leaders have kept quiet about the recent developments in same-sex equality, and I can’t help but wonder if their silence speaks louder than words.
Organizations such as the American Family Association have also issued remarks deriding the Supreme Court’s decision: “Now, we must warn against … and change the thoughts and convictions of Americans to accept this lifestyle as the new normal,” Tim Wildmon, the organization’s president, said.
Interestingly, NBC aired a new family comedy sitcom called “The New Normal” in 2012 which featured a family supported by two gay fathers. Other popular series such as “Modern Family,” “Glee,” “30 Rock,” and “House of Lies” all feature LGBT characters and rank among the most well-loved and critically acclaimed shows in television history.
Infamous for racial and homophobic slurs among other appalling activity, the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas has posted several tweets using hashtags such as #FagsRuleAmerica, #AmericaIsDoomed and #FoolishMortals as well as posts referring to the Supreme Court Justices as “black-robed and black-hearted”—yet another inappropriate and offensive reaction to the ruling.
On the road to full marriage equality, I recognize that not everyone will agree on same-sex marriage. I have family members who have a very traditional and conservative view on marriage, and as a journalist and human being I have to respect that. While I do not agree with their opinions, I understand that they, too, do not agree with my beliefs and we handle our disagreements politely and respectfully, with only the occasional heated debate. However, groups like the Westboro Baptist Church seem to blaze their trails without any consideration for who might be maimed by their unnecessarily crude language and crass protesting methods. Even in disagreement, there is a line of respect that should not be crossed, yet groups like the Westboro Baptist Church have already run a marathon past that point.
All said and done, this was expected. With every decision comes its supporters but also those who wish that any one justice had voted the other way to sway the tight 5-4 decision. However close, the victory is a victory none the less for the entire LGBT community and is a monumental step in the fight for equality.