Friday, June 28, 2013

The SCOTUS Marriage Decisions: Ripples Across the Nation and Right Here In PA

I was going to give my more coherent and complete thoughts on the Supreme Court's Wednesday marriage decision yesterday, but it was my son's birthday and we were playing board games most of the day so I just decided to take a cue from Jon Geeting over at Keystone Politics and take yesterday off.  Happily so, or I wouldn't have been able to include my thoughts on a related incident that took place in the Pennsylvania General Assembly on Wednesday.

Wednesday, after the momentous and historic decision to strike down DOMA and to effectively overturn Proposition 8, Rep. Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia) got up during the unanimous consent portion of the House session to say a few words in honor of these ground-breaking rulings.  If you are unaware, Brian Sims is the first openly gay lawmaker that Pennsylvania has ever elected.  His speech, however, was unceremoniously shut down by Daryl Metcalfe and some of his arch-conservative cronies.  Metcalfe has been mentioned here before for his passionate love of limitless guns and also his particularly virulent hatred of people whose sexuality differs from his.  Oh, and let's not forget that he's a cosponsor of the recently passed bill that limits a woman's ability to purchase health insurance that covers abortion.

Metcalfe and company objected to Sims' speech and thus it was shut down.  Later in the day, Metcalfe stated during interviews that,
"I did not believe that as a member of that body that I should allow someone to make comments such as he was preparing to make that ultimately were just open rebellion against what the word of God has said, what God has said, and just open rebellion against God's law,"
Go ahead and read that again, because it really takes a couple reads to fully comprehend how totally ridiculous and wildly unconstitutional it is.  This attitude, however is exactly in keeping with the people who have fought and who continue to fight for laws like DOMA and Prop 8 and their counterparts across the country, including right here in our own commonwealth.  These are people whose primary argument against marriage equality is "because God says no."  

On Wednesday, as I sat at my laptop watching coverage of the Supreme Court decision stream live on CSPAN3 I listened for a bit to CSPAN take callers of various political positions talking about their feelings regarding the decision.  The Democratic opinion was grounded squarely in happiness.  The Independent position was split and, not quite surprisingly, so was the Republican opinion.  What was especially unsurprising was how many people who identified Republican called in giving only the argument that homosexuality is yucky and against god.  One man actually said "I don't care if it's a man and a man or a woman and a woman...it's disgusting."  People talked about "biblical marriage" and "redefining marriage" and the judgement of god.  Some people were at least charitable enough to allow that it wasn't the government's business to enact god's judgement here on earth as gay people would face god's judgement in the next life.  

There is no arguing with these people, just as there is no arguing with the even more extreme people who insist that striking down DOMA paves the way for legalizing bestiality and pedophilia.  For those people, you may want to point them to this handy Crack'd article about the specific effects of the Supreme Courts rulings.  The important thing to remember is that, as important as these decisions are, unless you are a woman who wants to marry a woman or a man who wants to marry a man your life has been affected exactly 0%.  Sure, you may be excited for friends and family members who now have the ability to receive all the same legal benefits as you (depending on what state they live in).  You may be utterly disgusted that same-sex couples now have the ability to gain federal benefits.  Either way, your personal life is totally unaffected.  

This differs specifically from say...the push for gun control.  One Republican who called in to CSPAN said that, though liberals are thrilled about gay people having the right to be married, we are the same people who wish so fervently to take away his 2nd Amendment rights.  First of all, that's not true.  I, and I suspect most other self-identified liberals, have no problem with law-abiding and mentally stable citizens owning guns, be they for self-defense or hunting.  However, as the many victims of mass shootings across this country will tell you, the types of guns and ammunition that people may own can very much affect the lives of countless others.  Marriage, on the other hand, affects those who wish to get married.  

These explanations, like the reasons why I am pro-choice, are explanations with which I feel I am just about done.  If, at this point, certain people still need it explained that their piety does not depend upon other people's actions then I am simply at a loss for what words would successfully convey the feelings of tens of millions of Americans and counting who have come to the understanding that - between consenting adults - love is love.  So I guess now what I have to say when extremists and lunatics spout nonsense is exactly what Representative Nancy Pelosi said when asked about Michele Bachmann's statements on the Surpreme Court's decision, "Who cares?"

I will set aside voices of hate and fear and I will rejoice in these decisions that will have a positive effect on individuals and families across our nation.  Our fight is not over until we reach full equality for LGBT persons everywhere in the United States, but a pivotal step has been taken towards that full equality.  The DOMA decision is especially important because DOMA was struck down based on the Equal Protection Clause.  This can, and I'm sure will, be used as legal precedent to argue that same-sex couples should receive equal protection under state laws as well.  Chad Griffin, President of The Human Rights Campaign has declared a goal of full marriage equality to all 50 states within the next five years.  

Although the Prop 8 decision skirted the matter at hand, it still likely accomplished the goal of allowing marriage equality to return to California.  In fact, Gov. Jerry Brown has declared that, as soon as the stay is lifted, counties must begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples again.  It's probably safe to say that very soon we can add California to make the count 13 states and the District of Columbia that have marriage equality.  For Californians, and hopefully soon for all Americans, we can - as a friend said on Facebook - stop saying "gay marriage" and "same-sex marriage" and just say marriage.  We're not there in Pennsylvania yet, but thanks to representatives like Brian Sims, I am confident that we can look forward to a day when same-sex marriage and opposite-sex marriage will just be marriage.