Everybody Loves Rainbows!

So, since the WordPress editor has a giant rainbow staring me in the face, let’s talk about rainbows! Of course, we need to address the elephant in the room, which is the fact that our government is adding chemicals to our water to create impossible rainbows. That is what all the controversy is about, right?

No? It’s the Supreme Court of the United States decision (SCOTUS, an unfortunate acronym which always makes me add an ‘R’ and think of the Latin first conjugation rather than the third)? Oh, well, that’s a whole different issue.

Let me get it out of the way. I don’t really care about gay marriage. In my opinion, if two people of the same sex want to get married, go for it. There’s been a lot of discussion about how marriage is “traditionally this” or “naturally that” but they all seem to be conveniently leaving out the actual social history of marriage.

Marriage means different things to different people and cultures, and that definition has changed throughout each culture’s history. Marriage in modern times means something very different from marriage a hundred years ago, and marriage in the U.S. is different from marriage in China.

There is nothing “natural” about marriage. It’s a social construct, like money and government. Sure, there’s an underlying biological urge to select a mate, and over time cultures have identified the “marriage for life” is generally going to be optimal for social harmony in the majority of cultures. Exceptions exist, and what that means is different for everyone, which further proves my point.

I won’t really go into the religious argument because it’s a dead end. Once you argue “this is true because God said so” you’ve basically given up the argument. Even Jesus explained his teachings in parables…I doubt saying “My Father said so” would have gotten him very far with the Pharisees. It’s the argument you use with a child because you’re too lazy and/or ignorant to bother with a real answer.  So I’ll leave it there, to perhaps explore later (source: CNN).

So why the apathy? In my mind, marriage is two things…an oath and a social contract. As a Marine, and generally as a person, I take oaths seriously. I vowed my life to my wife and I intend to keep that oath. The other part is a social contract; we share finances, legal agreements (in some areas), and assets (for the most part).

If homosexuals are willing to make an oath to each other, why should I be opposed? Let’s be honest, if you’re a heterosexual getting married for the tax benefits, you’re getting married for the wrong reasons. Anyone who thinks marriage is easy probably a) isn’t married or b) is the problem in the relationship. And, still being honest, it’s not like all heterosexuals take marriage very seriously either.

I’ve heard a lot of other arguments, like it’s going to close churches or cause children to be abused. First of all, if a church closes because of gay marriage it’s because they chose to do so. That’s like saying interracial marriages are going to close churches; it will only close them if they want to close. One of my pet peeves (and this will be a recurring one) is when people act like they have no agency in a decision. We always have a choice.

As for the children thing, not sure where that is coming from. Children are abused in heterosexual families and we have ways to deal with abusers. Homosexuals will have just as much responsibility for their children as any other adoptive parent, and can suffer the same consequences for abuse. It’s not like this is a new thing; most states have a way for legal adoption by same-sex couples without being married, and have for years. Personally I think we should be encouraging more adoption but that’s another discussion. I just don’t buy the “gay people abuse kids” argument without some actual evidence to back it up, and if it exists, I haven’t been able to find it.

The bottom line is that I don’t have any issue with gay marriage. I’m not strongly for it only because the controversy itself doesn’t make any sense in my head. As far as I’m concerned it’s a non-issue (and this is where I’m going to lose all the people who have been nodding up to this point) and ultimately I consider it a purely social issue.

That being said, I strongly disagree with the SCOTUS ruling. As far as I’m concerned it’s another loss for our country, and disappoints me greatly.

Woah, where did that come from? I feel like I should add a record scratch in here. But there’s a reason, bear with me, and it’s probably going to take a couple of posts to fully make sense. So fold your “Jump to Conclusions” mat back up!

Let me back up. I think the majority ruling was correct, legally speaking. I’m not a lawyer, so this is my Barney-style understanding, but essentially the Court used the 14th amendment to declare anti-gay marriage statutes unconstitutional. This is essentially the same logic used for interracial marriage in 1967, and makes sense given that precedent. My argument has little to do with the actual law (in fact, given that decision, I’m sort of surprised there were so many dissents…seems like a perfect corollary).

So why do I disagree? Because this is a social issue, and I do not believe social issues should be decided by the courts. They should be decided by, well, society. And we live in a democratic republic, and thus I believe our social issues should be decided by the will of those living in the society, not nine people’s interpretation of the meaning of a 148-year-old constitutional amendment clearly intended to end racial discrimination. By doing so we are basically spitting in the face of our form of government and ultimately creating more hatred in the process.

The decision saddens me because it gives validation to those who believe our country is being ruled by special interest groups, or the “minority.” And when you establish the minority as being wiser than the majority, you open yourself up to all sorts of issues, and ones that I think we can really see evidence for all around us.

Yes, the majority is not always right. And if the majority is truly against gay marriage, I personally believe they are in the wrong. But if you let the majority rule, and change their minds through debate, discussion, and truth, then they’ll end up being happy and think the whole thing was their idea. They’ll accept it because you convinced them you were right and didn’t trample over their opinions through brute force. And over time the right way will prevail.

As America I feel we’ve lost faith in that system, and it’s divided us more than any bigot could do with hateful words and violent actions. By letting the minority dictate what is right we’ve alienated the wrong, forcing them to stick to their misguided principles through shear stubbornness.

This ruling means that the majority was never given the chance to choose. You can no longer argue that the people really wanted gay marriage because any statue saying otherwise, of which we had many, were gutted by the legal system.

To me, it’s incredibly sad to see should have been a celebration of personal freedoms come at the cost of freedom for the American people. We’ve gained something as a society but chipped away at something just as precious in the process.

So, congratulations to all those who have benefited from this ruling. Sorry to rain on your parade (oh, lord, the puns). Get it? Rain causes rainbows, and there’s the parades in celebration…you know what, never mind. I’m out before the tomatoes start flying from everyone!

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9 thoughts on “Everybody Loves Rainbows!

  1. First thing I’d like to bring up is that overall, majority of American’s do support gay marriage (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_opinion_of_same-sex_marriage_in_the_United_States yay! for wikipedia’s need for citation. removes my need to post multiple sites all saying the same thing) so all SCOTUS’ decision does is make the majority’s, not minority’s, view the law of the land.

    But that’s besides the point of what you were arguing here. If I understand correctly, the crux of the argument is that SCOTUS shouldn’t be making social choices for the people. And I kinda get where you’re coming from on that. These types of decisions shouldn’t be forced on people. But at the same time, they kind of have to be.

    I’m sure that eventually this country would’ve passed legislation to allow gay marriage (or so I’d like to think, you know, once the majority of those currently in Congress left and our generation filled their seats), but does that mean that all those people have to wait years to be treated equally? That’s not fair to them. What SCOTUS decided was that it is illegal for the states to say that gay marriage is illegal. This is what SCOTUS was created for. As check to make sure that the laws that have been passed are fair to the people. And Congress can technically overrule them. (Not that it’s going to happen thankfully.) Checks and balances.

    And some people don’t want to be convinced. Maybe because it screws w/ their world, or their world view. I would LOVE it if everyone could by swayed by rational arguments. That is not going to happen.

    I don’t think SCOTUS’ decision is spitting in the face of the constitution (if any decision of the last few years does that, I’d say it’s probably “Citizens United v. FEC” personally). This case falls under SCOTUS purview. They said a law was unconstitutional. If declaring a law unconstitutional doesn’t fall under their jurisdiction, what does? Yeah, maybe you might have preferred that the process happened legislatively just so it could be perceived as having come from the people, as opposed to being forced upon people, but thats not how things went down.

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    • I’m fairly sure you were in my U.S. History class…reread Marbury v. Madison. This is judicial review (which is what you’re talking about). While it is commonly accepted in the law community that the Supreme Court has the right to review the constitutionality of statutes this is not a power explicitly granted anywhere in the Constitution. Essentially, we’ve used the principle of judicial review to establish that judicial review was intended by the Constitution, which seems like a sketchy way of doing things to me. But that’s ancient history, fortunately or unfortunately.

      I don’t believe social decisions have to be forced on people, and in fact I believe it to be detrimental. Do you believe all the people forced to accept gay marriage legally have suddenly changed their minds? “Oh, the Supreme Court says I have to like, so I guess I like it now?” Let’s all be honest here…social change has not happened due to the Supreme Court decision. We’re at the same spot we were before, and if a majority truly supports it, and we still can’t pass a law to accomplish the same thing as the Supreme Court decision, that should be very, very scary to people. That’s essentially proof that the majority doesn’t rule, and our elected leaders cannot make decisions in our best interest.

      Yes, some people may be rolling their eyes, saying “duh, of course they can’t make decisions.” In response I say that is a symptom that indicates the system in broken. And if the majority doesn’t have the ability to fix it, then we’re stuck, and we’ve lost.

      Sure, everyone can’t be convinced by rational arguments, this is true. But the majority can be. We’ve already seen it in the link you posted…the majority was already convinced about gay marriage as proven by polls which are always accurate. And if we give up on convincing people that there’s a better way then why have a republic at all? Why not just tell the people who are “right” they’re in charge and free to make whatever decision they believe is best for us?

      When five appointed officials are deciding a social issue for a country of over 300 million people, and we are celebrating it, it’s very hard for me to believe we still live in a democratic republic. And it’s hard for me to make that argument, because I fundamentally agree with the outcome.

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  2. Yeah pretty sure we had AP Government together, thought I don’t remember this particular case from school (Marbury v. Madison), had to look it up to refresh my memory, although funny enough, I do actually remember the gist of the case (if not the name) mainly because I think it is hilarious, behind the scenes, politicking.

    But this case (Obergefell v. Hodges, the gay marriage case) is not a case where the court is randomly deciding something for the, better or worse, benefit of all. The case itself was brought before the court because the couple (Obergefell and his partner) had gotten married in another state, but the state they lived in (Ohio) stated that because their state did not recognize same sex marriages, they (specifically the state attorney general and the governor, Hodges) wouldn’t recognize the marriage license. This meant that when the partner passed away (he had been terminally ill), the death certificate would state they the man had been single, not married. Obergefell called bullshit, the state said it wasn’t, and thus the case worked its way up the judiciary until we got Friday’s ruling. (Which really? Just based on Article IV Section 1; this case should have been open and shut).

    But this case was rolled up w/ a few others. People specifically asking wether laws stating that gays weren’t allowed to marry or adopt were constitutional or not. This is the type of question the Supreme Court has been answering since it came into being. And the other side of the coin in saying that the laws were in fact unconstitutional, is that gay marriage and adoption is legal. To say that said laws were unconstitutional, but they couldn’t get married until laws were passed to allow it? It’s double-speak.

    As for the system being broken? Agreed. And hell, there’s even research to suggest the US is an oligarchy, not a republic (http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-echochambers-27074746)

    But I kind of want to touch on a sentiment you seem to be having. Had this not been about a social issue, would you have had a problem with the verdict? Let’s talk about another verdict they just came out with yesterday? On gerrymandering. Arizona and a few other states had passed laws to (attempt) taking the politics out of redistricting. The Arizona republican led legislature was not a fan of this, so they challenged it in court. SCOTUS said that the independent commissions were legal. Personally, I’m for this as it is a step towards removing politics from the important process of redistricting. But it’s not on the same level of social impact as the anti-gay marriage laws. Is this ok? If we remove the social views of these rulings and look at them from a purely constitutional/law angle, what makes SCOTUS taking this case different from deciding that a law that says gays are not allowed to marry or adopt? Or do you think SCOTUS shouldn’t have taken either case? If so, then what types of cases should SCOTUS be viewing?

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    • As I mentioned in the original post, I don’t disagree with the law itself. Given the precedent, and the scenario, I believe they came to the correct result. In fact I’m still a bit shocked there was so much dissent; from a purely legal view it seems like a pretty clear case. The five justices who voted in favor did so with what I would consider sound legal reasoning. As you pointed out, it should have been an easy case, and if it were that simple, why did it even end up at SCOTUS?

      Politically, however, it’s a small nuclear device, so much so that four Supreme Court justices actually mentioned it in their dissent, which is strange when you think about it. How did Justice Roberts open his dissent? “But this Court is not a legislature.” Why do you think he even mentioned it? It’s not like one of the nine top judges in the U.S. court system is unfamiliar with the law and the division between law and statute. He dedicated his entire life to the subject. A lot of people are mocking the four justices that dissented, but keep in mind who these nine people are. We’re not talking about newbie lawyers, we’re talking about appointed experts when it comes to the U.S. legal system.

      As for the other case, yes, I find that one depressing as well, and for the same reason. Think about the nature of that case. The voters in those states are asking for an independent commission to curb a negative political behavior created by the very legislature they elected. Look at your own sentence…”Arizona and a few other states had passed laws to (attempt) to take politics out of redistricting. The Arizona republican led legislature was not a fan of this, so they challenged it in court.” In other words, their legislature was challenging a state law in court. How the hell did that happen? And why was it even allowed to get to the Supreme Court? We’re talking about a legislature utilizing the legal system to strike down a law passed by their own legislature here. The initial legal response should have been “well, if you don’t like it, pass a new law” not “let’s take our state issue to the highest court in the land.”

      As I said, the tragedy is not that the court ruled in favor of gay marriage, or that they took the case. The tragedy is we live in a country where the Supreme Court was our only solution. Now, how can I look someone who is against gay marriage in the eye and tell them the American people chose to allow gay marriage? I can’t. Even before this ruling most states that allowed gay marriage only did so because their local court said they couldn’t ban it.

      If you want to see how it should have happened, look at Ireland. Will they have issues with the people against gay marriage? Sure. But at least they have an actual democratic argument to back up the decision.

      We don’t.

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  3. The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;—to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls;—to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;—to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;—to Controversies between two or more States;—between a State and Citizens of another State;—between Citizens of different States;—between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects.

    In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.

    Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed.

    I highly recommend reading the Wikipedia article on it as well. Determining constitutionality of laws is the only power exercised by the Supreme Court that the Constitution does not explicitly grant it.

    I would argue that the purpose of the Supreme Court is everything directly granted to it by the Constitution, and if judicial review were an intended function of the Supreme Court, then we should modify the Constitution to say so.

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  4. yeah, I read the Section of the Supreme Court before commenting here. But I’m still not clear on what you think the Supreme Court would do if they didn’t have the right of judicial review. Explain it to me. Because as best as I can see it, by not having that power, all that would happen is people would take cases about whether they thought a law was (un)constitutional to the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court would decide, but then…people would be free to ignore the ruling? If SCOTUS couldn’t enforce it’s ruling, then what would be the point?

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    • The Supreme Court would rule on cases of law that districts could not agree on, and on all laws and agreements affecting foreign policy (which they do now; weighing in on the constitutionality of laws is only a small part of what the Supreme Court does). The Supreme Court simply wouldn’t accept cases that rule on constitutionality because it would be outside the scope of the legal system.

      What should happen if a law is unconstitutional? I don’t know, maybe change the law? We have this whole legislature thing who’s primary purpose is to pass laws. A new law can overwrite or remove an old one. If someone feels that a law breaks a higher law (the constitution) then maybe we should change the law via our legislative system.

      Maybe a better system than having Supreme Court decide whether or not a law is unconstitutional we should have them rule on whether or not the intent is clear and be able to make Congress review it. In other words, the Supreme Court would take the case, determine that they believe it does not fall within the Constitution, and send it to Congress for clarification. Congress then clarifies the law and keeps it or decides the law is invalid and removes it. That way the courts aren’t guessing at congressional intent; they can get it straight from the source.

      I still don’t understand how this ruling doesn’t terrify you. It terrifies me. Think about it, if *one* of those Supreme Court justices had ruled the other way, they would have upheld bans on gay marriage as being constitutional. The case against the Defense of Marriage Act was also a 5-4 win. That means there was literally ONE person as the decision point between gay marriage being completely legal and completely illegal.

      What if it had ruled the other way? Would you be as happy about it now? Do you really want major civil rights issued decided on two 5-4 votes? Because that would have become the precedent. What if Congress tried to legalize gay marriage, only to have the law legalizing it be declared unconstitutional because these two cases ruled in favor of banning gay marriage?

      Sure, it ended up OK, but it was *close*. The whole point of the democratic process is to avoid the tyranny of single person or small group of people deciding what’s best for the nation. This time it worked out in your favor.

      Next time, it might not. And when people come crying about how unfair it is, I’ll have to shake my head and explain how they created the system that allowed it.

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