In arguably the best news this entire YEAR (it is only June, after all), The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that all 50 states in the Union are legally forbidden from denying a marriage license to a couple based on the sex of the partners, and are legally bound to honor the marriage licenses of couples, gay or straight, granted in other parts of the country. That means that gay and lesbian couples can now get married anywhere in the United States of America, and have that marriage remain valid no matter what part of the country they’re in.
Finally, same-sex couples who want to make their commitment to one another official in the eyes of the government can enjoy the same rights, protections, and responsibilities that heterosexual couples get to enjoy. Bye-bye, civil unions — love to see you go, won’t bother watching you leave.
Unfortunately, the decision wasn’t unanimous. In fact, Obergefell v. Hodges, the case on which the same-sex marriage ruling hinged, was a tie, with four justices in favor and four justices opposed. In the end, key swing-voter Justice Anthony Kennedy sided in favor of extending the right to marriage to same-sex couples, writing in the majority opinion that “it would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves.” His vote has undoubtedly cemented him in history as one of the LGBT community’s staunchest supporters in the crusade for equality.
While we can breathe a collective sigh of relief that there’s at least one person with common sense and decency sitting in the Supreme Court, we can’t forget that the decision was a close one, with four justices choosing to maintain the status quo instead of shattering it. In his dissent — all four justices disagreeing with the majority authored dissents, in a rare break from tradition — Chief Justice John Roberts tried to couch the issue in a discussion of the proper democratic processes and protocols that the US is founded on, writing that the issue is “about whether, in our democratic republic, that decision should rest with the people acting through representatives, or with five lawyers who happen to hold commissions authorizing them to resolve legal disputes according to law. The Constitution leaves no doubt about the answer.” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his dissent that same-sex marriage is not a principle rooted in U.S. tradition and therefore not one covered by the jurisdiction of the Constitution, and Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that the decision was not in the scope of the Supreme Court to decide, and that the issue should be left to the individual states to decide for themselves.
The worst, and most shocking, dissent was the one penned by Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote that the Court is trying to imbue dignity on a group of people who already have an innate human dignity granted to them by the Declaration of Independence. He goes on to say that because the government cannot bestow dignity, it automatically cannot take it away, writing:
The corollary of that principle is that human dignity cannot be taken away by the government. Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved. Those held in internment camps did not lose their dignity because the government confined them. And those denied governmental benefits certainly do not lose their dignity because the government denies them those benefits. The government cannot bestow dignity, and it cannot take it away.
Sorry, Justice Thomas, the world could drown in an ocean of human dignity, but that wouldn’t mean sh*t to the same-sex couples who still wouldn’t be able to legally get married. Just like it didn’t mean sh*t to the slaves who were LEGALLY allowed to be brutally dehumanized for hundreds of years, and just like it didn’t mean sh*t to the Japanese men and women who were LEGALLY ripped away from everything they knew. Honestly, WTF, Justice Thomas. Your wife is white. You wouldn’t even have been able to meet her if the government hadn’t decided in the 60s that you were “dignified” enough to be able to marry a white woman.
Let’s not dwell on the bad, though. This is a cause for celebration — people who have been waiting for years, lifetimes, even, can now finally get married! Love is in the air, and it’s a nationwide epidemic. Whatever you end up doing tonight, do it in the knowledge that the United States just got a little closer to being the land of freedom, opportunity, and equality it has always claimed to be.