You Aught To Remember: Same-Sex Marriage

Matt Sigl sums up a decade of progress:

It is no small irony that Justice Scalia's stinging dissent in Lawrence V. Texas, the landmark Supreme Court court-case of 2003 that ruled the antiquated anti-sodomy laws still on the books in many states unconstitutional, provides the logical framework for same-sex marriage with ringing clarity. He writes:

Today's opinion dismantles the structure of constitutional law that has permitted a distinction to be made between heterosexual and homosexual unions, insofar as formal recognition in marriage is concerned. If moral disapprobation of homosexual conduct is "no legitimate state interest" for purposes of proscribing that conduct...what justification could there possibly be for denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples exercising "[t]he liberty protected by the Constitution," ibid.? Surely not the encouragement of procreation, since the sterile and the elderly are allowed to marry. This case "does not involve" the issue of homosexual marriage only if one entertains the belief that principle and logic have nothing to do with the decisions of this Court. Many will hope that, as the Court comfortingly assures us, this is so.

This from a man who quotes Cole Porter Lyrics in official Supreme Court decisions. But Scalia's fears were not unfounded. The Lawrence V. Texas decision, announced the week of gay pride in a serendipitous coincidence, was the first domino to fall in a decade that saw a cascade of progress for gay civil rights, most importantly and most famously, the right to marry.

In 2001 The Netherlands (of course) were the first nation in the world to recognize same-sex marriage. In 2003 Ontario followed suit, with Canada granting universal marriage rights to all citizens in 2005. By the end of the decade seven different countries (including South Africa!) have full legal marriage for same-sex couples. Many others have newly enacted civil union laws. And in America, after the shackles of legal and institutionalized homophobia were loosened with Lawrence, same-sex marriage became, just as Scalia predicted, not a lofty dream but a logical necessity and social inevitability. Within six months of the Lawrence decision the ice had thawed enough to allow for the Supreme Court of Massachusetts to demand the that Bay State offer the same marriage license to all its inhabitants, gay or straight. In the culture war equivalent of the sinking of the Lusitania, the Massachusetts ruling promised a battle over gay marriage that would last years if not decades.

In another ironic twist for the Scalias of the world, the mass of media coverage on same-sex marriage, fueled by the right's hysterical response to the nuptials, only made gay people look more sympathetic. Here were women in white dresses, and men in tuxes, often with children in tow, kissing on city hall steps and sharing wedding cake. Weddings like any other. The wholesomeness of the images was almost comic. And yet, the defenders of traditional marriage keep repeating, ad naseum, as they attempted to enshrine discrimination into the U.S. Constitution, that these marriages were a "threat" to the very fabric of society.