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 false rubric.
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.