As was done with the last several gay-friendly cases heard by the Supremes, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the decision. His reasoning is based on the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection and Due Process clauses – both together. Excerpts from his opinion:
Many who deem same-sex marriage to be wrong reach that conclusion based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises, and neither they nor their beliefs are disparaged here. But when that sincere, personal opposition becomes en- acted law and public policy, the necessary consequence is to put the imprimatur of the State itself on an exclusion that soon demeans or stigmatizes those whose own liberty is then denied. Under the Constitution, same-sex couples seek in marriage the same legal treatment as opposite-sex couples, and it would disparage their choices and diminish their personhood to deny them this right.On we go to Justice Antonin Scalia's dissent. He can be entertaining with his colorful phrases. At least he is more polite than he was when the Supremes overturned bans on gay sex (on this date 12 years ago).
Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered. The same is true of those who oppose same-sex marriage for other reasons. In turn, those who believe allowing same-sex marriage is proper or indeed essential, whether as a matter of religious conviction or secular belief, may engage those who disagree with their view in an open and searching debate. The Constitution, however, does not permit the State to bar same-sex couples from marriage on the same terms as accorded to couples of the opposite sex.
No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.
The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.
This is a naked judicial claim to legislative—indeed, super-legislative—power; a claim fundamentally at odds with our system of government. Except as limited by a constitutional prohibition agreed to by the People, the States are free to adopt whatever laws they like, even those that offend the esteemed Justices’ “reasoned judgment.” A system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.This guy has apparently never heard of Tyranny of the Majority – which is quite disappointing because a basic piece of his job is to prevent such tyranny. Mr. Scalia, after you use such ringing phrases as, "A system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy," we must ask, how did you vote in Bush v. Gore and Citizens United?
The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.
Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a separate dissent. It is so... well, I don't want to quote it. He says essentially that gay people can live their lives in peace, so what's the problem? He takes a swipe at Kennedy's phrase "equal dignity in the eyes of the law" by saying government doesn't bestow dignity. By preventing the political process from playing out people are prevented from considering the religious liberty implications as part of their deliberative process.
Justice John Roberts also wrote a dissent, saying there is no constitutional right for same-sex marriage, the Court can't take the issue away from the states. Justice Samuel Alito also wrote a dissent, but I haven't seen any quotes.
I'll let you go surfing for all the comments from those who think this is a bad decision, though today's All Things Considered on NPR has a balance of quotes. At least on NPR our opponents don't say ugly things. The comments are all about religious freedom and how man can't redefine God's law. And all the other gays are boogeymen out to get your kids nonsense. Personally, I've had enough of "religious freedom" because it has become to mean, "We must maintain our right to discriminate."
Melissa McEwen of Shakesville has a much larger quote from Kennedy's ruling. She share's a fun text from a gay friend.
So sorry to hear about the crumbling of your traditional marriage this morning! Wish you both well navigating this scary new world!And she ends with several statements like this one:
This is a GREAT DAY for all the LGBTQ people who recognize that marriage is just one step on a long journey to comprehensive and meaningful equality, but needed like whoa a big win to fill their sails with air to keep them moving on their way.In another post McEwen comments on how wonderful Kennedy's ruling is.
Ari Ezra Waldman, a lawyer who writes for Towleroad, lists seven important points from the ruling. Here is one of them:
4. The decision is framed around the link among three “evolutions”: the evolving history of marriage, the evolving acceptance of homosexuality, and the evolving scope of the rights protected by the Constitution. Bringing all of this together, through a decidedly progressive narrative, is remarkable rhetorical and substantive feat that vindicates the doctrines of the marriage equality movement.In a second post Waldman does a more thorough analysis. After the evolutions mentioned above Waldman lists the four principles that compel Kennedy to rule for same-sex marriage.
1. Individual autonomy, which both progressives and conservatives endorse.
2. Marriage is so important it cannot be denied to same-sex couples.
3. Same-sex marriage actually benefits children, refuting the old conservative claim.
4. Marriage is essential for social order and thus in the government's interest.
Kennedy's ruling includes rebuttals of conservative arguments, including those of his colleagues. Waldman believes this ruling will benefit the cause of progressivism in general.
Marriages have begun, with special sweetness in Georgia, Texas (where more citizens approve of gay marriage than oppose), Alabama, and Mississippi (where GOP leaders are throwing a hissy-fit). Special joy for newlyweds Jack Evans (84) and George Harris (82) who have been together for 54 years. There isn't a rush because same-sex couples know this is for keeps and they can take their time to plan their ceremony.
Here is a collection of images appropriate for the day. And a video of the joy outside the Court when the ruling was announced – that brought a lump to my throat.
Dear sister, I hope you take great joy in planning your wedding. I trust your wedding day will also be joyous.