I woke up today, cleaned myself for the day, and logged onto Facebook, as per my usual routine. Unlike most days, though, my Facebook homepage was filled with excitement over the Supreme Court’s decision to declare the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, and its decision to defer California’s Proposition 8 back to the state supreme court.
Now, as happens a lot when marriage equality scores a victory, its opponents tended to be quiet, with CNN.com reporting that the head of the Evangelical Church was happy that “the national dialogue was continuing.” On Facebook, I have seen only one negative response, and that was of an acquaintance of an acquaintance, on an event page for a rally I won’t be able to attend. He commented that he believed in “by the people” and “a few making decisions for the rest of us.”
These arguments are often easy to use, for both the left and the right, when they’re views, preferences, and government philosophies are struck down by the high court. The same argument could have been made regarding the Citizens United ruling a few years ago; shouldn’t Congress, or the people, have the power to decide restrictions on campaign money? However, as with all civil rights arguments, the “by the people” argument has one serious fault.
Many states in our union would probably be fully segregated still, if not for the Supreme Court stepping in and saying “no, you can’t do that anymore,” in its momentous Brown v. Board decision. To argue otherwise is to deny the continued and lingering racism this country still has, as well as all the fighting it took to actually implement integration. The “by the people” argument also fails to address the fact that the Founding Fathers, coupled with the judicial brilliance of John Marshall, designed our government so that the highest court in the land had that specific authority.
In a weird way, it surprises me that the more affluent, non-elected officials in the GOP have not seen gay marriage as an economic beast, which it really is. Remember several years ago, when then-Mayor of San Francisco Gavin Newsom legalized same-sex marriage there; you know how many couples travelled there? It was huge, and I think that once gay and lesbian weddings start off in California again, there will be an economic incentive, even if a short-term one, for business-owning conservatives to stop complaining about losing the Prop 8 battle, which will likely change the flow of the national discussion once the results come in.
Don’t believe me? For a long time, in particular the Reagan years, the porn industry might as well have been plague-infected; Hugh Hefner commented that Playboy still hasn’t fully recovered from the public backlash that occurred then. What changed? The rise of the internet meant that adult material could be viewed in the comfort of your own home; there was none of the awkwardness of having to buy it at the store, with the clerk giving you dirty looks. This meant big money, which ultimately changed the nature of how we look at it; for many in my generation, who came of age in the 1990s and early 2000s, it isn’t a big topic to discuss in public, but it’s not like when my parents were growing up; far from it, we joke about it more than anything.
The economic argument is a strong one, and as we see more and more economic activity in California and New York on gay and lesbian weddings, which bring in big money, through the wedding itself, associated tourism, hotels (and their fees and taxes), and so on, it could dull the conservative discussion. For so long as it remains a state-by-state issue, it will likely never pass in the states that once were in the Confederacy, and quite frankly, as long a handful of states have it, and make boons off of it, the issue will be forced into discussion in those places sooner or later.
Now, I get that the fight is on-going, and I am not declaring victory by any means whatsoever, and as with abortion, you never really win the war, only skirmishes and the occasional battle, which today was. Many people, like Bill Maher, are moving onto other topics, such as marijuana legalization, as being their major one. I’m not. Gay rights are a big topic for me, and it requires a lot of people to stand vigil and guard what gains are made.
I have often pondered if Prop 8 would have passed, had more of the voting population known what they were actually voting on, which in turn spawned a national discussion, and spurned the movement in a way I didn’t see coming. As for DOMA, I know a lot of liberals blame Clinton (he did sign it), but I put in perspective; the GOP threw it at him in an election year, and if I could have voted, I would have voted for him over Dole anyway. Clinton himself recognizes the bad policies of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ and DOMA, and celebrated their respective demises.
I suppose that I should wrap this up by saying that it was a great day, and I hope that the good news keeps coming.