Recent federal court rulings upholding the constitutionality of gay marriage have brought much relief and joy to gay couples around the country who have applied for marriage licenses, including in North Carolina.
But now a federal appeals court in Cincinnati, driven by two judges of a three-judge panel, have thrown a wrench in the constitutional works, upholding bans on gay marriage in four states.
There seems, then, little doubt that the nation’s highest court will ultimately decide on the constitutionality of gay marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court is philosophically divided, but one would hope the justices would see the wisdom in the decisions of multiple other federal courts that have said that banning gay marriage infringes on a fundamental constitutional right.
After all, in a nation governed by and guided by the U.S. Constitution, there should not be such fundamental rights that end at one state’s border and do not transfer to another. The right to marry someone of one’s choosing is not something that should be subject to the whim of political ideology.
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Poll after poll has shown that the issue is of less and less importance to people, particularly to younger people. Even when the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage was approved by the GOP-led General Assembly for a vote of the people, many members were lukewarm about it.
And though House Speaker Thom Tillis, now a U.S. senator-elect, backed the amendment, he acknowledged in one meeting that it likely would be gone in a generation.
North Carolina and other states have wasted entirely too much time on this issue, with far more important things on the agenda. Government should not interfere in the private lives and the rights of citizens to the pursuit of happiness. And though this latest ruling supports a state’s right to ban gay marriage, other federal courts have repeatedly said otherwise.
While logic of the latest ruling is regrettable, the split at the federal appeals level may have a welcome effect. It puts the issue before the Supreme Court where the right to same-sex marriage could be established nationwide.