Two days ago, the Supreme Court—on the final day of the 2012–13 session—struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. The justices also ruled by a vote of 5–4 that proponents of California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage, had no standing to appeal after Prop. 8 was struck down by a Federal judge in San Francisco. The ruling was big. The makeup of the majority was even bigger.
First, let’s look at some common objections to gay marriage. Many Christians cite Leviticus 18:22, which prohibits homosexuality between men—women are not mentioned. Why Leviticus? It’s part of the “Old Testament.” These folks don’t accept the other commandments of the Torah like not eating pork or honoring the Sabbath—the seventh day of the week, not the first.
Other Christians find proof-texts in the “New Testament.” Fair enough—for appealing to other Christians. What right have they—or anyone—to impose their religious views on members of other religions? Or of no religious bent? Think same-sex marriage is a sin? Don’t engage in it.
The real problem is people who, in the name of religious freedom seek to define religious duties for everyone. Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco helped raise $1.5 million to put Prop. 8 on the ballot. He once called gay marriage “the ultimate attack of the Evil One.” By all means, Archbishop, teach that to your flock. But not to me. My rabbi has a different perspective—as do I.
Other opponents cite procreation being the purpose of marriage. So what about couples who choose to be childless? Or marry—or remain married—when procreation is no longer possible? Someone of whom I know stood against gay marriage on the basis of its role in procreation—until he re-married at age 60.
And what about the impact on kids? An article in a recent Atlantic magazine examined research that, while in its infancy, indicates that children of same-sex couples don’t seem to be at a disadvantage.
Now, back to the Court’s Prop. 8 majority. It consisted of Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative, along with liberals Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan plus—drum roll—the conservative Antonin Scalia. Might Roberts and Scalia have had future court decisions in mind? Possibly. Yet regardless of their personal positions on Prop. 8 and gay marriage, each justice turned to the law—whether or not the case had standing—to determine his or her vote.
The battle over gay marriage will continue in many state legislatures. But what if more legislators, state and national, stare history in the eye and decide to pursue the interests of all their constituents without imposing their own social and religious leanings? And what if both liberals and conservatives feel freer to cross the ideological aisle with the understanding that the general welfare also includes that of the minority?
Fantasy? To a point. But fantasy once included the idea that the United States would someday accept gay marriage and turn its focus to issues of actual importance. We’re not quite there. But a new reality just got closer.
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Read the first three chapters of David’s novels SAN CAFÉ and SLICK! at davidperlstein.com. You’ll also find online ordering links for iUniverse.com, Amazon.com and bn.com.