Our laws constrain behavior that can hurt others, such as killing people, taking what isn’t yours, adulterating food, poisoning water or refusing to hire or serve someone because of their skin color or religion.
But when two private citizens marry, it hurts no one.
Now “hurt” and “offend” are two different things. I understand that many people are offended by homosexuality—typically for religious reasons—and worry that seeing married gays might hurt them and their children. To these good if benighted people I answer with Lenny Bruce’s old sarcasm about not wanting to allow Christians to teach in public school because he was afraid his kids would come home with St. Christopher medals stuck in their palms. Those who feel uncomfortable around married gays should remember that there may be something about themselves that will offend other people, such as wearing a cross, quoting from the Bible or saying “Have a Merry Christmas.”
While our society has always been open and based on tolerance for all full citizens, unfortunately at the beginning only white males were considered full citizens. Thank goodness the suffrage, civil rights and other liberation movements have given full citizenship to just about everyone.
Marriage is clearly not about having children the natural way (i.e., man and woman engage in sex and nine months later a baby pops out). Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan nailed it when she said that if the purpose of marriage were procreation, a state could deny marriage licenses to a heterosexual couple in which both spouses were more than 55 years old.
But what about the children? Studies have exploded all the myths about gay marriage. The children of married gays behave no differently from the children of straights. The insertion of gays into social groups does not lead to an outbreak of crime, disease or a higher incidence of drinking, drug use, gambling problems or any other social problem.
In short there is no overriding public interest that would require or allow the state to outlaw the marriage of two people of the same sex.
If gay marriage were legal throughout the country, it would not prevent any religion or religious leader from refusing to marry gays or accept them in the flock. But it would end the obnoxious hypocrisy of having our secular society imposing the religious views of many on the rest of us.
But the controversy over gay marriage serves a purpose for our politicians. It’s a sideshow that keeps our minds off the real problems, such as global warming, energy and other resource scarcity and the increasing inequitable distribution of wealth. Moreover, elected officials and candidates opposed to gay marriage bundle it with a bunch of issues that hurt most Americans—like low taxes on the wealthy, privatization of basic government functions, union-busting policies and a low minimum wage. The “social issues” of the right-wing trick the good people of the religious right into supporting its only-the-rich-matter stands on economic issues.
I have no idea what the Supreme Court will do. But I do know that those who think Justice Kennedy is the swing vote on this issue have it wrong. The swing vote is Roberts, and here’s why. Roberts has always voted the way that large corporations want him to vote. That’s why after years of votes that take rights from individuals and give them to corporations, he figured out a way to vote to uphold the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (AKA healthcare reform). Large corporations liked the new healthcare law because it will save them money, and once again, Roberts was their boy.
And large corporations for the most part have swung in favor of gay marriage, or at least no longer oppose it. My guess it that the court will favor gay marriage if Roberts can apply some twisted reason that enables him to affirm the overturning of the California anti-gay marriage law without offending his basic conservative principles and the consistency of his past votes. Otherwise, he’ll cut a deal with the four centrist members of the court to refuse to hear the appeal.
The same goes for the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). If Roberts can construct an argument that tracks with his “principles” but still allows gay marriage, DOMA dies.
Whatever happens, even more millions of dollars will be spent on both sides over the coming years, money that could be put to better use arguing about real issues or actually doing something to help the country.