It’s not that nothing happened…but today, when the justices of the Supreme Court of the United States decided not to take up any of the pending cases on same-sex marriage, as they were expected to, the decision not to decide—at least not yet—was another sign that homosexual Americans can look forward an end to legalized discrimination sooner rather than later. Some of them saw no reason to wait—same-sex marriages started in Virginia within hours of the news this morning.
The decision not to hear arguments in any of the cases where federal appeals courts had in essence ruled in favor of same-sex marriage means that those rulings stand, clearing the way for legal same-sex marriages in as many as 11 more states, bringing the number of states on the right side of history to 30 so far (and don’t forget the District of Columbia!). Vox.com has a good explainer here of what today’s actions mean, with links to an update on where each state’s court case stands and graphics showing how gay marriage is being recognized in law as the right thing to do even in places where many citizens disagree. But that’s what courts are for, to enforce law and equity in the face of majority ignorance.
Why did the justices decide as they did? I don’t know, and the justices are not compelled to explain. But it means that, for whatever reason or reasons, there weren’t at least four justices who were willing to take one or more of these cases right now. I’ve read some theories that the court decided not to hear any cases because there was no disagreement: all the pending court cases were in favor of allowing same-sex marriage, so they felt there was no conflict that required their special wisdom to resolve. The argument goes that once there are one or more cases with the opposite finding, the nation’s highest court will step in; I guess we’ll see if that’s so, but this court’s ruling in Windsor v. United States overturning the Defense of Marriage Act as a deprivation of equal protection under the law should give a good hint what they might say.
I’ve said it before (“SCOTUS dumps DOMA: fair, simple, American”), and I’d like to say it again:
This is not about what one religion or another teaches about homosexuality; this is about how the civil law treats American citizens regardless of their religious belief, or their gender or their race or national origin. A religion is free to believe and teach what it wants about the morality of homosexual behavior or same-sex marriage, and its teachings and laws are important to the members in good standing of that particular faith. But those teachings are not binding on Americans who are not members of that denomination. The civil law, which orders how we all deal with one another in the secular society outside the confines of our many private clubs, is blind to such moral questions. States have the right to decide who can “marry” and who can’t, and the federal government has to treat all “married” couples in the same way, regardless of the gender of the spouses. Simple, really. Fair. American. Congratulations, U.S.A., on another successful day at the office.