Over the past year, I haven’t done a blog post when a state’s same-sex marriage ban has fallen. However, it has been an amazing thing to watch. I try to concentrate on the positives of each victory. Inevitably the subsequent photos of couples (often temporarily) marrying, so often older people who have been together for decades or couples with children or simply couples in love, moves me to tears. Unless it’s been denied to you, I don’t think it’s possible to know, really know, the monumental emotion that comes with acknowledgement.
I say ‘try to concentrate on the positives’ because there is a part of me that realizes we haven’t had a ruling from an appellate court yet. I anticipate the Tenth Circuit will be first, which has authority over my home state, because it was the first to hear oral arguments on the same. Though the Fourth Circuit has now as well. I am very cautiously optimistic on how those will turn out. But even then, I’ll have the same gut-level dread I have now … at some point, the Supremes are going to be asked to weigh in and the LAST thing I want is this Supreme Court to rule on same-sex marriage. We won the partial DOMA challenge but based on last summer’s arguments on California’s Prop 8, I don’t look forward to a ruling on marriage. Until we have conflicting rulings from appellate courts, they may very well not elect to hear an appeal on these matters (though, I anticipate the Fifth Circuit will take care of that for us. I have a little doubt any circuit court will uphold a ban, but I have no doubt the Fifth will).
But back to concentrating on the positives, I haven’t done a blog post referencing any of the truly eloquent opinions that have been issued in the last year that have struck down same-sex marriage bans. However, I wanted to share this excerpt from the Oregon opinion released today. This isn’t actually the legal minutia portion of the opinion, though that’s certainly in there, but it is an excerpt I loved, especially the last sentence because I have always been a sucker for an inspirational message who calls us to be more.
I am aware that a large number of Oregonians, perhaps even a majority, have religious or moral objections to expanding the definition of civil marriage (and thereby expanding the benefits and rights that accompany marriage) to gay and lesbian families. It was these same objections that led to the passage of Measure 36 in 2004. Generations of Americans, my own included, were raised in a world in which homosexuality was believed to be a moral perversion, a mental disorder, or a mortal sin. I remember that one of the more popular playground games of my childhood was called “smear the queer” and it was played with great zeal and without a moment’s thought to today’ s political correctness. On a darker level, that same worldview led to an environment of cruelty, violence, and self-loathing. It was but when the United States Supreme Court justified, on the basis of a “millennia of moral teaching,” the imprisonment of gay men and lesbian women who engaged in consensual sexual acts. Even today I am reminded of the legacy that we have bequeathed today’ s generation when my son looks dismissively at the sweater I bought him for Christmas and, with a roll of his eyes, says “dad … that is so gay.”
It is not surprising then that many of us raised with such a world view would wish to protect our beliefs and our families by turning to the ballot box to enshrine in law those traditions we have come to value. But just as the Constitution protects the expression of these moral viewpoints, it equally protects the minority from being diminished by them.
It is at times difficult to see past the shrillness of the debate. Accusations of religious bigotry and banners reading “God Hates Fags” make for a messy democracy and, at times, test the First Amendment resolve of both sides. At the core of the Equal Protection Clause, however, there exists a foundational belief that certain rights should be shielded from the barking crowds; that certain rights are subject to ownership by all and not the stake hold of popular trend or shifting majorities.
My decision will not be the final word on this subject, but on this issue of marriage I am struck more by our similarities than our differences. I believe that if we can look for a moment past gender and sexuality, we can see in these plaintiffs nothing more or less than our own families. Families who we would expect our Constitution to protect, if not exalt, in equal measure. With discernment we see not shadows lurking in closets or the stereotypes of what was once believed; rather, we see families committed to the common purpose of love, devotion, and service to the greater community.
Where will this all lead? I know that many suggest we are going down a slippery slope that will have no moral boundaries. To those who truly harbor such fears, I can only say this: Let us look less to the sky to see what might fall; rather, let us look to each other… and rise.”