As I listened to oral arguments from both sides for two days as the U.S. Supreme Court decided the future of gay people like me, along with the questions and comments from the justices, I looked back through the past. I remembered the battles that we had fought, from Stonewall and then through the AIDS crisis where we saw so many of our gay brothers grow terribly sick and die. It was a time when our federal government, especially its president, Ronald Reagan ignored the suffering and dying of mostly gay men and provided no federal dollars to fight the epidemic named by many as the “gay disease”.
Now these men and women of the highest court has it in their hands to go the final mile in giving me and my gay brothers and sisters the same right as everyone else; to marry the one we love, and with full benefits.
The first day of arguments, I saw the reluctance in some of their comments in taking such a big step to allow same-sex couples in California to marry. By the second day, when hearing arguments concerning the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) I saw the sun breaking through the clouds ever so slightly.
I realize that gay rights have come a long way since Stonewall but now it had come down to this, the opinion of nine men and women. As far as I know, none of them is gay and I doubt that neither of them has been through some of the experiences we LGBT members have gone through to reach this day for them to have an opportunity to weigh in on our rights as Americans and human beings. I also know some of them take a dim view of the gay community and our fight for rights.
Justice Anthony Kennedy seems to hold the power, as he is seen as the only one who may side with the liberal justices on this matter. I disagree; I think Chief Justice John Roberts may rule in favor of striking down DOMA, along with Justice Kennedy. Look at his decision to opt out of repealing ObamaCare, the Affordable Care Act back in June of last year; perhaps setting a legacy for his court was one of the main drivers of his decision back then.
This is his court and he knows eventually, same-sex marriage will be accepted in every state of the union. Either Chief Justice Roberts can let his court be remembered as the one who failed to get it the first time and see the inevitability of same-sex marriage as society grows more liberal, or a court that finally realized the equal rights of all citizens, including gay people.
As far as Justice Kennedy, I know I heard a true conviction coming from his voice when he spoke of the children of gay couples and how it affected their lives saying,
“They want their parents to have full recognition and legal status,” Said Kennedy. “The voice of those children is considerable in this case, don’t you think?”
One thing is clear, we gay people are not going to go back into the closet, but instead we are going to move forward and we will fight until we have won all the rights that are entitled to us as American citizens, no more and no less than our fellow heterosexual citizens. Our agenda is simply this; joining the rest of society in enjoying all the benefits of marriage and pursuing our dreams of a better life.
Paul Clement, the lawyer representing the U.S. House of Representatives, which is defending DOMA, said at one point, “wait a minute. Let’s take a timeout here. This is a redefinition of an age-old institution. Let’s take a more cautious approach where every sovereign gets to do this for themselves.”
Justice Sonya Sotomayor shot back to him, “So they can create a class they don’t like here, homosexuals” and treat them differently under federal law when it is state law that deals with marriage?”
Justice Elena Kagan I think put the whole law into the perspective when she asked Clement, “Do we really think that Congress was doing this for uniformity reasons, or do we think that Congress’s judgment was infected by dislike, by fear, by animus, and so forth?”
Clement responded that Congress had gotten involved over marriage before to prohibit polygamy in the states.
Kagan then asked him, “Well, is [that] what happened in 1996?” She then quoted from the House Report written at the time of the law’s enactment, “Congress decided to reflect and honor a collective moral judgment and to express moral disapproval of homosexuality?”
It is clear from the proceedings that DOMA does not have a leg to stand on, as far as I am concerned, let us hope the justices see it that way also. Otherwise, the battle will go on and eventually, perhaps through a new congress that realizes the importance of ending a law that was meant to discriminate from the very beginning, and against one group of people; LGBT members.
Perhaps this court will choose to take a pass on any broad definition and refer to only California and the other states that have already legalized gay marriage, I hope not. DOMA should fall I would think, which will finally lead to many more states legalizing gay marriage. Same-sex marriages I would think are here to stay.