In declining to take up lower-court rulings that struck down same-sex marriage bans in five states as unconstitutional, the U.S. Supreme Court seems to affirm, at least for now, the right of those of the same sex to marry.
Those who pushed, largely for their own political convenience, a same-sex marriage ban in a constitutional amendment in North Carolina are now facing a steep uphill struggle to maintain that ban. Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat, has said he will no longer fight to keep the ban in place because it would be a waste of time given those earlier court rulings.
In July, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, for one, struck down Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage. North Carolina is part of that circuit. On Tuesday, another federal appeals court ruled against same-sex marriage bans in Idaho and Nevada.
Unfortunately, Phil Berger, president pro tem of the state Senate and House Speaker Thom Tillis, both Republicans, have said they plan to keep on fighting at taxpayer expense with their own lawyers. This is a waste of time and money.
Standing their ground
Berger and Tillis, now running for the U.S. Senate, are standing their ground on the argument that Amendment One, as the ban was called, was approved in a referendum by 60 percent of voters. What they don’t like to acknowledge is that turnout for that election was just 34 percent. Critics say that means the amendment was approved by just 20 percent of eligible North Carolina voters, stirred up by the demagoguery of the advocates.
There’s another hole in that argument. Public sentiment doesn’t always follow the Constitution. Chances are that if an amendment denying equal rights for minorities were put on a ballot in the 1940s or 1950s or perhaps even later, it would have passed, though clearly it would be outside the bounds of the U.S. Constitution.
The truth is, the public’s view of gay marriage – particularly the view of younger people – isn’t nearly as hard-edged as it used to be. There simply is a growing tolerance and a belief that gay people should have equal rights in all ways and that to deny them the right to marry is singling them out for political punishment.
A Republican outrage
The real outrage here is that Berger and Tillis continue to fight against the judicial tide. Berger is a lawyer and certainly ought to know better, and Tillis, at the time Amendment One was being debated, indicated he believed it would eventually be repealed anyway. But to protect his own political hide, he put his conflicted views aside and signed on with the Republican majority.
As they fight on in a losing cause (there’s no place to go after the U.S. Supreme Court), Republicans also are putting themselves in political danger. The stubborn stand against gay marriage is a slippery one headed for a fall.
Already, registers of deeds, who issue marriage licenses, are preparing for an increase in requests from same-sex couples. And the registers aren’t going to willy-nilly act on their own to deny those requests. Once federal courts rule – and given the high court’s decision not to take up the issue they’re almost certain to rule against a ban – the gates will be open to those of the same sex who wish to marry.
When that happens, those who have conjured visions of moral collapse and decay and the end of the American family are going to be proved wrong. The world will not come to an end because those of the same sex exercise a right they have long deserved to have.