Thursday, June 27, 2013

Thoughts on marriage equality

I have had a day to try to digest yesterday's U.S. Supreme Court rulings on the subject of marriage equality, and I want to share a few thoughts.

First, the Supreme Court most carefully did NOT fully-legalize same-sex marriage.  What it DID do is state that all marriages recognized by the several states are created equal, for the purpose of Federal taxation and other benefits.  To be sure, the majority opinion authored by Justice Kennedy (a moderate-to-conservative judge, if you believe in labels) did use "equal protection" language that might be referenced in future debates and litigation about same-sex marriage.

The Court did inch slightly towards full legalization in the California Proposition 8 case, by letting the trial court decision that the Prop 8 ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional stand.  But that is of zero legal weight, except if you live in California.

There are a ton of thorny legal issues raised by the incremental nature of yesterday's rulings.  If two lesbians get married in New York (which recognizes gay marriage) and move to Alabama (which does not) are they married under Alabama law?  Under Federal law?  Both?  Neither? (I have to give credit, this was raised by Justice Scalia in his rant, pardon, "dissent" to the DOMA ruling.)  And the equal protection part of Justice Kennedy's reasoning will lead to further legal challenges on that ground against states that ban same-sex marriage.

If I had to predict, I would expect within the next decade, that marriage will be between any two consenting adults. As as a hetero male of advancing years who has lived his whole life in Indiana, that is how it should be.  The State has no business telling anyone who they can love and commit to.  Nor is it the right of our neighbors to take that right away, no matter what their personal beliefs.