4 Unnervingly Conservative Quotes From The Supreme Court's Gay Marriage Opinion That Reveal It's Not All Sunshine And Rainbows
At long last, the Supreme Court has rendered a decision that legalizes same sex marriage across all 50 states in the U.S. The decision was made public on Friday morning, sending activists, LGBTQ folks, allies, and politicians into an ecstatic celebratory mood. The official ruling published by the Supreme Court gives us cause for jubilation, to be sure; it unequivocally states that same-sex marriages must be legal across the U.S.! That said, the ruling has some problematic elements that we should acknowledge as we also celebrate this historic event.
Reading through the document, I was struck by the conservatism employed by the Court while explaining and justifying its decision. There are themes throughout that seem straight out of a conservative's most-used phrases book. Invoking the sanctity of marriage and the importance of marriage unions to the very fabric of American society, as well as appeals to the well-being of children, seem out of place in a ruling on a fight that has, in many ways, sought to challenge those very notions.
No doubt the Court made the right decision, but it is fair for us to ask whether or not their reasoning is helpful to the cause of LGBTQ rights. Here are some excerpts from the ruling that are worth our attention.
The Sanctity Of Marriage
While not referenced too frequently in the ruling, it is odd to see the sanctity of marriage employed in this context. The idea that marriage is sacred has been used as a weapon against the LGBTQ community, and further sanctity is not a matter of legality. The concept is out of place here.
The Well-Being Of Children
These quotes, frankly, are a bit insulting. The idea that the children of same-sex couples are humiliated by their parents not being married is a pretty massive blanket statement. The idea that marriage is a tool used to protect children is yet another argument that has been leveraged against the gay rights movement. Further, there are plenty of children of single parents of all sexual orientations and gender identities who are just fine. To suggest that a marriage union is the only circumstance under which children can be raised well flies in the face of logic, as well as research on the subject. The ruling would have been stronger without these remarks.
The Necessity And Importance Of Marriage For Society
The concept of marriage being necessary for our society to function ties in closely with the idea that marriage is somehow sacrosanct. The Court ascribes a great deal of importance and privilege to marriage unions, and not just in terms of personal fulfillment, but rather as a part of what makes us human. This gives far too much importance to a legal institution and status, and not enough attention to the fact that unequal distribution of rights is wrong because it perpetuates oppression. The latter is the opinion that would have been more appropriate in the context of this ruling.
BTQ Erasure/Gender Binary
Throughout the ruling, we never once see mention of bisexual, trans*, or otherwise queer-identified people. While gays and lesbians will certainly be some of the people benefiting from this ruling, the Court utterly erases bisexual couples who may also wish to marry a same-sex partner, and straight trans* people who face marriage discrimination as well. Additionally, the Court made repeated use of the term "opposite-sex," which reinforces a gender binary that many activists are working hard to rewrite. Further, the idea that the two more privileged sexes (cis male and cis female) are somehow opposed to one another isn't helpful for anyone, and again erases a slew of other identities that are impacted by this and similar civil rights issues.
I don't mean to suggest that this ruling isn't cause for celebration; it most certainly is a great day and one that will go down in civil rights history. However, it is important to look deeper into how and why this decision was made and ask whether or not this is good enough, or if we want and expect more from our governing bodies. The thought process behind these decisions matters a great deal and should not be ignored. A milestone achievement for LGBTQ rights has been reached, but the Court's words make it apparent that there is still much work to be done toward a broader and more accurate understanding of equality-based issues.
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