Our nation’s capital was a-flutter this week as two landmark cases were heard by the Supreme Court: one regarding the constitutionality of Proposition 8 from California, and the other, a challenge to DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act). These cases are significant for many reasons, but specifically because this is the first time in our nation’s history that the case of marriage equality has been brought before our highest court.
Based on multiple public opinion polls, there has been a fundamental shift regarding same sex marriage. Overwhelmingly supported by my generation, the thirty and under crowd, the issue of marriage equality has bipartisan support.
Marriage Equality may be an issue that brings our polarized Congress together.
Since January 2013, many conservatives have joined the ranks of social liberals and moderates in vocalizing support for marriage equality. Here are just a few:
-Rob Portman (Sen. from Ohio, most notably showing support because his son is gay)
-John Huntsman (former presidential candidate/biggest threat to Obama if he had won the primary)
-Dick Cheney (former vice president/Darth Vader)
-Meg Whitman (ran for governor of California against Brown)
-Richard Hanna (Rep. from NY)
AND most recently: Dan Winslow (GOP candidate for US Senate for MA). Winslow was the only GOP candidate that spoke at a support rally for marriage equality this past Tuesday in Government Center. I later tweeted about, and he replied with this:
He’s a pretty stand up guy, if you ask me. Hopefully this won’t hurt his chances at a well matched special Senate election.
In the interest of public opinion polls, I reached out to my personal, social, and stranger networks to ask the question:
Do YOU support marriage equality? Do you not? Why?
For the record, not once have I claimed, nor will I ever claim that I am completely unbiased when I write this column. It’s called LEANING LEFT, for goodness sake. So for all of my critics out there, no I am not a political journalist (although that sounds fancy and I guess you can continue to think I am one), and yes, I know who Scott Brown is. And for the issue of marriage equality: yes, it has become a politicized issue. But is it politics? No. The issue of marriage equality is inherently a human rights issue and I will not claim neutrality in the face of discrimination or hatred.
That being said, the responses I got confirmed something fundamentally uplifting: not one person responded that they didn’t support marriage equality. All of my networks- liberal, conservative and apathetic alike agreed. This positive outpouring of support reinforced my hope in humanity. However, let me say that maybe your religion dictates your sentiments on gay relationships and gay rights, but last time I checked, America has a little something called the separation of church and state. So you can check your bible verses at the Supreme Court doors.
Here are some of the responses I received regarding my rudimentary ‘poll.’ They are responses of support, solidarity and love.
“I support marriage equality – theologically, ethically, morally. Had I remained in parish ministry, I was prepared to officiate at the blessing of same-sex unions. I’m proud of the leadership and witness of the Episcopal Church on this issue.”- Former Reverend Sam Faeth, Virginia
“I don’t have some great political debate to offer in defense of marriage equality. I just know that my sister and her girlfriend love each other and I only want my sister to have the same rights as I do.”- Gaby Suarez, Virginia resident, ally
“I’m for marriage equality. Truth is, governments should have stayed the hell out of marriage. However, we’re too far down that rabbit hole (tax treatment, survivor benefits, spousal benefits for insurance and social security) to go back. There exists no rational basis for the United States or any State to deny the same rights to people because of their gender/sexual preference. Boiled down, I’d say my position is “constitutional.” That said, I bet the Supreme Court punts the prop 8 appeal on standing grounds and strikes down the challenged part of DOMA on the grounds that Congress lacks the power to regulate marriage. I doubt the question of the constitutionality of forbidding gay marriage gets decided this year.”- Nate Tarvin, lawyer from California
“Growing up with an openly same sex couple in my synagogue, watching them raise two amazing adopted children probably had something to do with my views being formed at an early age, so it’s something that I’ve just instinctively supported all my life. But that aside, here are a few of the big picture reasons why I’m unambiguously for marriage equality:
1) While marriage itself isn’t that significant to me and is seen by some as a pretty small corner in the fight for sexual liberation and equality, it is the frontline of the battle, like public transit and lunch counters were for the civil rights movement. I’m positive that the marriage equality movement played no small part in making the government end Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
2) It’s not just a religious issue so long as there are legal rights and privileges attached to it. We may never succeed in eradicating religious hatred, but we can succeed in keeping it out of the laws of a modern democracy.
3) Win or lose, it’s shaping how people think about society and how to change it. The first steps are never perfect, but they’re always critical.
4) Because the next generation will think it’s as disgusting as we think Jim Crow was.”- Kris Jenson, DIG contributor
Whatever the outcomes of Prop 8 and DOMA, it is clear the majority of Americans err on the side of tolerance and solidarity. However, the Supreme Court justices have the power to bring justice and set a precedent. Maureen Dowd said it best in her NYT op-ed piece this week:
“While Justice Alito can’t see into the future, most Americans can. If this court doesn’t reject bigotry, history will reject this court.”