Court follows nation on gay marriage

June 27, 2013 

Polling on the issue of gay marriage now finds roughly 70 percent of Americans believe legal gay marriage is “inevitable.” And over half are in favor of it becoming legal.

In this state, GOP legislators saw to it that voters had a chance in 2012 to approve a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, which those voters did by a substantial margin. North Carolina’s move seemed against the grain of public opinion and common sense then and seems more so with every passing month. Among younger people, for example, the issue of gay marriage is increasingly a non-issue, even in more conservative states.

Critics of the amendment said it might cut tourism, a major industry, and that it could hurt recruitment of the sorts of modern, high-tech industries North Carolina wants (and with the Research Triangle Park, is well suited to have). Those types of companies consider the quality of life factor for employees in considering locations. The anti-gay marriage amendment is a negative for such firms. And 30 percent of Americans now live in states where gay marriage is legal.

Game changers

That percentage is likely to increase with two Supreme Court rulings this week that have to be game changers on the issue.

The high court ruled that a lower trial court’s blocking of the implementation of California’s Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage, would stand because a Supreme Court majority believed federal courts had no right to rule on it. It’s effectively an upholding of the right to gay marriage in the nation’s largest state.

But the ruling with broader implications is that which threw out part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

The result was that even in states where gay marriage is legal, partners in those relationships were not entitled to share in federal benefits across a broad spectrum involving everything from insurance to inheritance. Now, in states where such marriages are legal, those partners will get benefits. The ruling will not apply in states such as North Carolina, where gay marriage is not recognized.

It’s a monumental change, and one likely to boost the campaign to legalize gay marriage. To read that ruling, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, is to see a reasonable application of law in the context of social justice. Kennedy cited the right of states to define marriage, but also invoked the importance of human rights and granting people a measure of “dignity.”

Here is sanity.

No threat

During the debate over North Carolina’s amendment (the state already had a ban on its books), proponents campaigned as if from the pulpit, and in fact a number of ministers enlisted in the campaign. But other than claiming same-sex marriage was aberrant and against religion, supporters of the amendment never answered the contention on the part of opponents as to how same-sex marriage was somehow a threat to conventional marriage.

It’s not. No vast social conspiracies have been unleashed in those states that allow gay marriage. Conventional marriage in those states has not been affected. What has happened is that couples have been allowed to have their love and their unions recognized by the state.

Ironically, advocates of things like constitutional amendments banning gay marriage, amendments that put governments right in wedding chapels and courthouses to regulate human behavior, also tend to be among those who complain of “big government” and “government interference.” Yet they don’t see the contradiction.

The Supreme Court rulings, by a majority-conservative court, demonstrate not some evil shift in moral belief or a court swaying with changing public opinion, but rather a recognition on the part of justices that the interpretation of law must recognize the application of the law in a common-sense, reasoned fashion, not holding to conservative or liberal ideology.

The court’s rulings will not immediately spread recognition of gay marriage to all 50 states or even spur campaigns on the part of advocates to achieve that. But it will most certainly prompt rustling in the national consciousness, dialogue and perhaps searching in the hearts of individuals as to where they personally stand, and where they want their society to stand.

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