By Andrew Hendricks
With positive outcomes in the recent back-to-back Supreme Court decisions on gay marriage, San Francisco's City Hall lights up in rainbow colors in celebration.
Both cases were seen as landmark victories by civil rights defenders. First, by striking down DOMA, the court has ruled that gay marriage does not exist in the vacuum of a state, and that all homosexual and heterosexual married couples alike are entitled to the federal benefits that come with marriage. Prop 8 had been recently ruled as unconstitutional by a California court.
Contrary to some reporting, the Supreme Court did not actually rule in the case of the overturning of Prop 8. In that case, Proposition 8 was a 2008 ballot measure to repeal same sex marriage. With a flurry of outside spending, a huge percentage of it from the Mormon Church, Prop 8. passed.
The outcome of that legislation was bizarre, to say the least. There were just over 10,000 gay couples in San Francisco who had married in the time between gay marriage being ruled legal by the courts, and voted illegal by the people of California. The language in Prop. 8 had no legal ability to un-marry the already legally wed gay couples in California, so thus, there were two separate but unequal legal statuses for homosexuals in California. One set had no ability to wed and receive all associated benefits, and another had all of these benefits, but only with the partner they were already wed to, and could theoretically never receive the benefits with another person in the future.
California courts recognized the bizarre nature of having regular gays and super gays (according to legal status), and a California court of appeals found the Proposition unconstitutional. However, with such an issue, and the supporters of Prop. 8 having appealed the California court's ruling, marriages would not be allowed to continue until the Supreme Court ruled on the issue.
And rather than issue an actual verdict with detailed opinions to help us sort out the future of the legality of homosexual marriage in the United States (something you'd think the Supreme Court would be more willing to do), the Supreme Court overturned the case on the very reasonable predicate that never before has a law been brought to the Supreme Court to be upheld after being overturned by a lower court, because the law was being defended by an outside group of people unaffiliated with the state government.
So while the specific rulings on DOMA, designating that it served no purpose but to purposely discriminate against a group of Americans, is a nice thing, it is interesting to note how the Supreme Court sidestepped the most interesting outcome of their ruling. What does interstate commerce even mean, related to marriage across the country?
It is great, and about time that gays married in progressive states (and Iowa) are entitled to federal benefits after being legally wed. However, a legally wed couple in one state, moving to Kentucky--what happens to them? Gay marriage is not legally recognized in Kentucky. Are they still going to receive federal benefits, but not state benefits? Are they magically un-wed by the social conservative force field that surrounds the state? To my knowledge, crossing state borders has no legal basis for dissolving legal contracts and unions. Kentucky has no such power. But you can be sure lots of states are going to be claiming they do in the very near future.
Of course, the Supreme Court know this. Antonin Scalia has appeared absolutely apoplectic about issuing any rulings on these issues, because he understands that each ruling does not exist in a vacuum. He has said in so many words that you can't say it's illegal to discriminate against gays, and then keep all these things he's in favor of that discriminate against gays.
So basically, now we wait. It is a state that the homosexual community is used to--and luckily now with results to make the waiting a little easier. The writing is on the wall, and liberals know it. The liberal Justices of the Supreme Courts know it. Even the conservative Justices on the Supreme Court knows it. These two rulings have nudged the door just far enough open that it will never be closed again. We now wait to see which couples or states will be the next one, two, or three cases brought before the Supreme Court to point out the absurdity that is a result of the DOMA decision. We wait, curious and fascinated by the legal route this civil rights journey will take. However, like watching a remake of an old classic film, we all know the outcome.