Brown v. Board of Education; United States v. Windsor: do they belong together? Yes they do: today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Windsor case is just that historic. In a very specific and non-technical way Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion makes clear what the 5-4 court ruling says the Constitution requires: the “[Defense of Marriage Act] is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment.” You can read the professional reports on the decisions announced today here and here, and elsewhere, but here’s my take:
All people deserve equal treatment under the law. If the federal government grants certain legal privileges to dual-sex couples who are legally married under the laws of their state, the same privileges must be available to single-sex couples who are legally married under the laws of their state. Equal treatment; fairness. The court did not rule on the constitutionality of gay marriage today; it ruled on an issue of equality before the law. In refusing to rule on the Hollingsworth case regarding California’s Proposition 8, which outlawed gay marriage in the state, it sidestepped ruling one way or another on the constitutionality of gay marriage…perhaps another day. But that decision does have the effect of re-legalizing gay marriage in California, making it state #13.
In practical terms the Windsor ruling means same-sex couples should be treated the same way as opposite-sex couples when it comes to federal tax law and Social Security and insurance and immigration, all that federal stuff. In fact there are more than a thousand benefits coming into play here, and McClatchy does a good job summarizing that here. And for fun, TV Guide summarizes the celebrity reaction to the rulings here.
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.
Tidying up the files and hoping no one has noticed the “funny” little comments at the top of the page while I find out where they’re coming from:
I am still annoyed at the decision announced last month by the Obama Administration not to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other alleged September 11 attack plotters in civilian court…actually, “shameful” is the word that first came to mind. It caved in to bullying and fear-mongering from those who don’t really trust the justice system and want a guarantee of a conviction, which they believe they get from a military tribunal instead of a dozen New Yorkers off the street (I refer you to a prior discussion to the issue last year). On the other hand, Osama bin Laden didn’t get a public trial, either…
Good news and bad from our Texas Legislature. The state senator who took heat for her plan to railroad accused sex offenders by changing the rules of evidence in their trials had the temerity to defend her position in the paper by claiming her plan actually protects the rights of the accused! On the other hand, the bogus statistical machination that the state education agency has been using to falsely pump up the annual student assessment test results is on its way out.
In another development on the fungible facts front, the Arizona senator who intentionally misspoke on the Senate floor about the use of funds by Planned Parenthood, and who had his press secretary try to explain it all away by assuring reporters that those words were “not intended to be a factual statement,” has had the Congressional Record edited so that he’s not lying misspeaking anymore. Because members of Congress have granted themselves the “privilege” to do things like that.
Some days you think you have a pretty good handle on things and the world is spinning in greased grooves…and then you’ve got to figure out how to reconcile that world with one in which an Iranian government power struggle in the 21st century has led to arrests on charges of sorcery, and where the Chinese have outlawed time travel in works of fiction. If they’re against mythical stories, why do they keep calling their country a republic?
Look, since I’m kind of on a cranky roll anyway (see two most recent posts, below), here are a few unkind words about Americans’ obsession with tomorrow’s royal wedding.
The one in England…you heard about it, right?
God, who around here hasn’t!? Honestly, have you thought about what has brainwashed American TV networks—hell, local stations even—into thinking that we care enough about this spectacle to justify their overkill? Well I have, and the answer is: nothing. They don’t really care whether we care or not about some royal wedding; it’s just an event—one completely absent any real significance (except for the participants and their families, I assume)—that they can turn into “An Event!” that will attract a lot of eyeballs, which is what they need to sell overpriced advertising. Have storyline, will hype.
And even at that I wouldn’t be bothered enough to complain, except for one thing. I have no qualms about a TV company that promotes and broadcasts an event with the intention of making a boatload of money; that’s what they do, whether it’s the Super Bowl or “American Idol” or the last episode of “M*A*S*H.” But I have significant-sized qualms when they prostitute any credibility they may still enjoy by dressing up this sales opportunity as coverage of serious news when it is without a doubt nothing of the sort, and when we let them get away with it. By “we” I mean the Great Unseen Unwashed American Tee Wee Viewing Audience, and by “let them get away with it” I mean act like we don’t know or care that they’re blowing sunshine up our collective skirt.
Oh, here’s some good news: television ratings indicate interest in this pseudonews is less than expected…I hope that carries over into tomorrow, too: schadenfreude is best served with tea and biscuits.
And on a related subject: this keen interest from Americans toward a royal wedding seems a bit disloyal, inasmuch as we fought a whole war and everything to make the point that we don’t much care for fancy pants nobles and royalty because "all men are created equal." So what’s up with that?