It is the moment advocates of same-sex marriage have been anticipating and perhaps hoping for. The U.S. Supreme Court, in the wake of differing federal appellate court opinions, will settle the issue of whether bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional.
With marriage, the legal ties and rights are many, and same-sex couples have long sought those rights and, in some states, have gotten it. Other states, North Carolina among them, have gone to great lengths to ban same-sex marriage.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, whose jurisdiction includes North Carolina, has struck down state bans on same-sex marriage – something that sent advocates of North Carolina’s ban into a tizzy. Those advocates, including legislators, have wasted ridiculous amounts of time fighting to uphold bad law.
Unfortunately, other federal appeals courts have upheld same-sex marriage bans, even though 36 states have approved the unions. So now the nation’s highest court will consolidate several cases and make a definitive ruling, probably this summer.
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Some opponents of same-sex marriage are sincere in their belief that such unions are not supported by theology and are harmful to society and the bedrock institution of marriage. But those opponents have too often been used by politicians to smite anything with a “liberal” image.
Regardless of personal religious beliefs, the U.S. Constitution guarantees the rights of all Americans, and the high court isn’t going to be ruling on anything except that constitutional guarantee. The question will be whether the 14th Amendment, which promises all Americans “equal protection” and “due process” under the law, covers those of the same sex who wish to marry.
A number of courts have ruled that it does, and thousands of marriages have taken place without any apparent damage to traditional marriage or society at large..
And in terms of the views of the American people, there is a definite difference in the generations. Gay marriage simply isn’t much of a question for younger people, who have grown up in an era when civil rights extending to gay Americans, exclusive of marriage, has become more established and respected.
Justice Anthony Kennedy already has written an opinion upholding the right of same-sex couples to obtain federal benefits in contradiction to the federal Defense of Marriage Act. On a nine-member court sharply divided between conservatives and liberals, Kennedy might have a significant role to play. His ruling in that 2013 Defense of Marriage Act case may indicate he believes there are constitutional guarantees for same-sex couples.
There are, of course, different ways to interpret the Constitution, but it’s hard to read those guarantees provided to all Americans and not believe they should apply to all, regardless of sexual preference. The American culture is big and diverse and should welcome people of all backgrounds and beliefs to its institutions.
Same-sex marriage is simply not a threat to anyone. It does not infringe on the rights of those with conventional marriages.
Let us hope the Supreme Court will affirm the rights of all couples under the Constitution to be the same.