Sunday, March 31, 2013

Supreme Court Reviews DOMA and Proposition 8; Religious Right Rallies Against Same-Sex Marriage

Last week was a powerful week in the history of the LGBTQ movement. The U.S. Supreme Court reviewed two pieces of legislation -- California's Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act -- that ban same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court is scheduled to deliver its decisions on both cases in June.

On March 26th, the Supreme Court held a hearing on Proposition 8, which amended California's constitution to ban same-sex marriage. A federal judge in San Francisco branded Proposition 8 unconstitutional, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling, according to NBC News. If the Supreme Court strikes down Proposition 8, same-sex marriage could resume in California and possibly set a precedent for other rulings.

Additionally, on March 27th, the Supreme Court held a hearing on the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which forbids federal recognition of same-sex marriages in any state. According to NPR, the test case for DOMA involved Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer, a New York couple who had been together for 42 years before marrying in 2007. When Spyer passed away, DOMA regulations required Windsor to pay $363,000 in estate taxes, which she would not have owed if an opposite-sex spouse had died.

Amidst the court cases, high profile political leaders have voiced their support for marriage equality. During an interview with Telemundo, President Barack Obama defended LGBTQ equality before the law, stating that "consistent with our Constitution to recognize same-sex couples," and that "it is time for the justices to examine this issue." North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan insisted that "we shouldn't tell people who they can love or who they can marry", while California attorney general Kamala Harris called the Proposition 8 case "a case that is about fundamental notions of justice and equality and liberty." Several political leaders have posted the Human Rights Campaign equality symbol on their social media pages, according to ABC News.

Even corporations are showing support for marriage equality. ABC News reports that companies such as Budweiser, Absolut, Smirnoff, Target, and JC Penny released pro-LGBTQ advertisements as the Supreme Court reviewed cases. Additionally, NPR reports that 278 companies filed a brief against DOMA, arguing that the law "impairs employer/employee relations and other business interests." Specifically, the brief argues that DOMA imposes compliance burdens upon employers, forces employers to incur unnecessary administrative expenses, and burdens employees in the areas of retirement, health care coverage, and insurance benefits.

Washington D.C. was the site of large-scale demonstrations for and against same-sex marriage. On March 26th, a pro-LGBTQ rally near the Supreme Court featured speakers such as retired Bishop Gene Robinson, National Organization for Women president Terry O'Neill, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, and OutServe executive director Allyson Robinson.

While supporters of same-sex marriage rallied, opponents of same-sex marriage marched on First Street NE, reports the Washington Blade. Speakers at the anti-LGBTQ March for Marriage rally included Family Leader CEP Bob Vander Plaats, National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brow,; Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Concerned Women for America president Penny Nance, and American Values president Gary Bauer, among others.

The Washington Blade put attendance at the March for Marriage at approximately 2,000 participants, while the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) claimed that over 10,000 people were present. "The Supreme Court has no right to redefine marriage and roll back the efforts of Americans to protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman, the only social arrangement that gives children the mother and father they deserve," NOM president Brian Brown said in a March 26th statement. (See www[dot]nationformarriage[dot]org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=omL2KeN0LzH&b=5075187&ct=13053133&notoc=1)
"Forget the media hype and confusion, our numbers today show that the American people are strongly pro-marriage and pro-marriage Americans aren't going anywhere. This is the beginning of the fight to protect marriage. Our opponents know this, which is why they are hoping the Supreme Court will cut short a debate they know they will ultimately lose if the political process and democracy are allowed to run their course. Those who believe that marriage is the unique and special union of one man and one woman are on the right side of history."
Such a monumental week in the history of LGBTQ rights was met with Religious Right derision. As the Supreme Court reflected on Proposition 8 and DOMA, prominent Religious Right organizations and speakers trotted out the usual arguments against same-sex marriage.

First, in a March 29th press release read at the March for Marriage, Family Research Council's senior fellow for legal studies Cathy Ruse railed against same-sex marriage. She argued that if the Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage, it will constitute an "injustice" against children. (See www[dot]frc[dot]org/newsroom/frcs-cathy-ruse-redefining-marriage-is-an-injustice-to-children)
"Let me ask you:  Can you imagine what your life would have been like without your mom? It's almost impossible to imagine. What if someone could turn back the clock, and without asking your permission, take away your mother. How unjust that would be.  How cruel. What a violation of your rights.

And yet, if marriage is redefined by the Court it will mean that mothers don't really matter to children, and neither do fathers. The same-sex marriage debate is always framed in terms of the 'rights' of the adults, and never of the children. The children have no voice in this debate. They don't even seem to count."
In a March 28th commentary at the Concerned Women for American website, Penny Young Nance lamented how some Republican lawmakers have publicly supported marriage equality. She stressed that Concerned Women for America would continue to resist same-sex marriage. (See www[dot]cwfa[dot]org/content.asp?id=22098)
"We should rebuild and restore marriage, not redefine it. If we redefine marriage, then where will it end? We have already seen Hollywood embrace the idea of polygamy, a la Sister Wives. And abroad in Brazil, trio same-sex unions are legally recognized ... To be frank, it's difficult to write on this issue because of the ugliness that typically ensues from same-sex marriage advocates. They attempt to shut down the debate by saying that this is a civil rights issue, like race. However, the truth is marriage must be colorblind, but it cannot be gender blind. Men and women - regardless of their race - can unite in marriage; and children need moms and dads - regardless of their race. The genders are not interchangeable. Each of them brings something different and irreplaceable to the family.

The bottom line is that marriage is special union created as a holy covenant between man, woman, and God. It is the best institution by which our children are conceived. Marriage identifies the recognizable authority of a mother and a father who are ordained with the responsibility of rearing the future generation. We could never grant these same responsibilities to two heterosexuals who simply live together, because marriage is more than a living arrangement. All the love in the world can't make a mother into a father and a father into a mother. In a free country, everyone is free to live and love as they choose, but no one is entitled to redefine marriage for all of us."
In a March 29th column at the Washington Times, Jeffrey Kuhner argues that a Supreme Court decision in favor of marriage equality will prove "calamitous", heralding a new era of "cultural decadence and judicial tyranny". He warned that by defending same-sex marriage as a civil right, "pro-homosexual activists" seek to eventually adopt hate speech laws that would result in "social intolerance", "secular McCarthyism", and a branding of the Bible as "hate literature". (See www[dot]washingtontimes[dot]com/news/2013/mar/29/the-push-for-moral-chaos/)

During the March 26th edition of the Janet Mefferd Radio Show, Jim Garlow claimed that same-sex marriage activists want to force others to affirm "immoral behavior". Outrageously, he claimed that if same-sex marriage is sanctioned by law, Christians will lose their rights and be forced underground. (Hat tip to Right Wing Watch. See janetmefferdpremium[dot]com/2013/03/26/janet-mefferd-radio-show-20130326-hr-1/)
"I think it’s important for people to realize what’s really at stake here. And I know this sounds sound strange, most of us assume naively that what homosexuals are actually for is marriage. And that is not true, at least not universally true. What they want is to destroy marriage.

I think Masha Gessen out of Australia was the most open one I’ve seen on it. She’s a homosexual activist and she just said bluntly, ‘Let’s face it, we don’t want marriage, we want the end of marriage.’ And that’s exactly what happened, of course, in European countries, where they changed the laws regarding what the definition of marriage is and people just stopped getting marriage. And you’d think marriage rates would go up. Instead, they dropped because nobody respects the institution anymore.

And that’s what the heart of this is, not only to end marriage, they’re not demanding marriage for themselves, they want us, to force us to affirm an immoral behavior ... If same-sex so-called marriage is established as the law of the land, many of the people who are listening to my voice right now, not maybe immediately but at some point in the future, if they are followers of Christ, will be forced underground. Their buildings will be taken away from them, many of their rights will be taken away from them."
Right-wing voices can spout all the hair-raising rhetoric they want. They can march and rally all they want. But they cannot stop the evolution of American society, which is slowly but surely recognizing the rights of its LGBTQ citizens. Whatever the outcome of DOMA and Proposition 8, the very fact that the Supreme Court is examining them suggests that the tides are turning for LGBTQ equality.

For additional commentary, visit the following links.

Infidel753: Gay Marriage at the Supreme Court

Politico: For LGBT troops, DOMA ruling a pocketbook issue

Mother Jones: Big Government or Marriage Equality? DOMA Puts Conservative Justices in a Bind

Salon: In Supreme Court, anti-gay movement is humiliated


  1. The bottom line is that marriage is special union created as a holy covenant between man, woman, and God.

    Notice how they always bring up God eventually. All religious taboo-based "morality", what they bizarrely call an absolute or objective standard, boils down to saying "You can't do that because my imaginary friend doesn't like it." Which has zero persuasive force with those who don't believe in God or have a different view of God's intentions.

    As for Masha Gessen, of course some gays (and some straights) do favor abolishing marriage, but that doesn't negate the sincerity of those who want to participate in it. The bigots weirdly seem to imagine that all gays must think alike.

    1. Infidel -- Good point. Anti-LGBTQ activists make hollow arguments about children's supposed well-being, societal stability, etc., but it usually comes back to right-wing religious beliefs.

  2. We should "rebuild and restore marriage." I'm not even sure what that means. Such scare tactics.

    1. Donna -- I expect the rhetoric to get even more absurd as LGBTQ people gain more rights.

  3. "The same-sex marriage debate is always framed in terms of the 'rights' of the adults, and never of the children."

    What children need are parents who empower them and love them unconditionally. Parents who demonstrate that courage and intelligence are not gender based. If the debate was framed in terms of children's rights, the right wingers would lose.

    1. Agi Tater -- Well said. The struggle for same-sex marriage is as much about families as it is about couples.


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