Something About the Gay Marriage Ruling Doesn’t Feel Right

Comments 53


“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” – Mark Twain

Because I grew up in a little Catholic school in a little Ohio town in the 1980s and ‘90s where boys played football and zero people were (openly) gay, the entire concept of homosexuality was foreign to me.

We all used the word “gay” the way you’re not supposed to. As a substitute for “stupid” or “lame.”

I was a little homophobic. I know because when a group of friends took me to my first gay bar in college, I made a big deal of the fact I wanted to stay near the girls because I don’t want anyone to think I’m gay!!! OMG!!! Even though 90 percent of the crowd was.

None of that ever felt mean or cruel to me, though. Stupid and ignorant? Sure. But I can’t think of a single instance when I set out to be either mean or cruel.

Then Matthew Shepard was killed my sophomore year of college. Shepard was a gay 21-year-old student at the University of Wyoming, and two other kids tied him to their pickup truck and drug him down a road. Head injuries killed him six days later. Signs pointed to homophobia as the motive for the killing. The case gained national (and probably global) attention, and hate crime legislation became a thing.

I thought about all of the openly gay students I’d gotten to know and befriended since moving away from home to a relatively large and diverse public university. Not one of them deserved even a sideways glance, let alone harm.

I liked every gay person I met, without exception, and quickly stopped using that as the thing by which I labeled them.

And I thought back to my conservative, small-town upbringing where most people believe God once destroyed a city with fire from the sky because a bunch of gay people lived there and had lots of gay sex.

What is everyone so afraid of? I wondered.

Time Marches On

Here we are, 17 years later.

And it’s different now, right? Maybe that’s easy for me to say because I’ve never had to be gay in an old-fashioned small town, or as a member of a church that frowned upon such things, or had to deal with anything that felt discriminatory from an equal-rights standpoint.

But from my perspective, it seems most people have slowly pulled the sticks out of their asses. Surprise! People are gay! And until they break into your houses and start having gay sex in your living rooms and making your kids watch, let’s maybe try the live and let live thing!

Of course, there are plenty of people from my conservative past who didn’t like that “progressive” stance.

“It’s just WRONG!!! It says so in the bible!!!” they scream.

Yeah. Maybe. After all, I subscribe to The Purple Shirt Theory. Anything’s possible. I never pretend to know for sure.

But you know what else is wrong, outraged people? Rape and murder and theft and being a hypocritical, bigoted, prickly cock.

Priorities, folks. Honestly.

It generally seemed over the past 10-20 years like the national tone shifted from: Those weirdos who aren’t like us need to just stay in the closet! to Gay people are totally the best at fashion and fun and parties, but I hope they don’t think I want to do gay stuff with them! to Whoa. Gay people are exactly like me except they are attracted to the same gender. *shrug*

And I liked that.

I like it because when I imagine a pie graph to visually represent all of the things that make up who and what a human being is, who they are sexually attracted to represents a very tiny sliver. Sort of like skin color. And gender. And faith.

There’s just a hell of a lot more to being a person than any one of those individual silos.

Who people choose to have sex with SHOULD NOT be the dominant metric by which we evaluate them.

Which brings me to my problem with what happened Friday.

I Didn’t Join the Party

The popular thing on Friday was to jump up and down: “I’m so cool and hip and with the times and love gay people, so I think it’s AWESOME what the Supreme Court did!!! Love wins!!! Equality for all!!!”

And I didn’t do that popular thing.

I didn’t take to Facebook with instant analysis either for or against the verdict. I read a bunch of those and thought every one of them was a little bit bullshit.

The consensus among the pro-gay-marriage crowd seemed to be that the ends justified the means. That because they wanted equal marriage rights for homosexual couples so badly, it didn’t matter how it happened.

There are 50 states in the United States. On Friday morning, gay marriage was legal in 37 of them already. Because people in those states banded together to raise awareness for their cause and convinced enough people to sign petitions to get the gay marriage amendments on ballots, and then drum up the necessary votes to democratically change laws.

I LOVE that. It’s called freedom. And it’s beautiful.

And I’m 100-percent speculating and speaking out of school here, but I believe strongly that if I was gay, and wanted to get married, I would want to do so in a place where the majority of people said: “YES! You are loved, respected and welcome here.”

I’m not an attorney. I can’t make an informed argument for or against what happened Friday from a purely legal standpoint.

I was genuinely happy for every gay man and woman who felt as if this ruling somehow validated their relationships or made them feel more respected. That does matter to me.

But I didn’t just see Love Winning, or Equality for All when the Supreme Court took its action.

I saw five members of a nine-member court force the hands of 13 democratically elected state governments. And THAT concerns me. Because while granting marriage licenses to whomever is fine, I’m not even close to comfortable with sweeping, overnight legal change at the decree of a few people in Washington D.C.

Call me old fashioned, but I like when laws are formed this way.

Because what happens when a future judicial decree isn’t about freedom, liberty or equality, but about taking those things away?

And because I don’t believe the end always justifies the means.

The Accidental Hypocrisy

While societally we have grown more accepting (rightfully so, in my estimation) of homosexuality, we have collectively turned on organized religion and made that the enemy. And I get it! I’ve spent years growing more jaded toward religious organizations, including my own—the Catholic Church.

I think it’s because of people like Sarah Palin, and Uncle Si from Duck Dynasty, and the Duggar kid who diddled his sisters.

Because of the Catholic Church covering up its own sex-abuse scandal.

Because of all of the war and death and destruction as a result of religious-based fighting.

People claiming to love and follow Jesus Christ do and scream vile things to people who disagree with their beliefs.

People see and hear all of this bullshit and think: If those people represent Christianity or any organized religion, then I want nothing to do with them. They’re all stupid and evil!

We look at .000001 percent of the population openly practicing a particular faith, and then apply their regular dumb-ass humanness to everyone else in that same demographic. Sound familiar, equal-rights proponents?

I’ve spent my entire life around small-town conservative Christians, and while I’m going to have a different take on the occasional political or social issue and probably not like the same music or speak similarly (I’ll use way more bad words like “shit” and sometimes even “fuck”—don’t tell my grandma), I will defend them and ride with them on the VAST majority of life matters.

Remember that human pie chart thing? Loving Jesus or voting Republican (which have become VERY ugly things to some people) only make up a tiny sliver of who a person is.

And I care about EVERYTHING. We should all care about everything.

The people I know from my small, conservative town are kind, decent and generous. They don’t hurt others. They NEVER hate. They lift people up. They’re exceedingly charitable.

It now seems like we live in a world where if you go to certain churches that teach certain things you can’t be a good person anymore. It means you’re a “bigot” or a “hypocrite.”

And I think it’s an unfair and bullshit characterization.

Not unlike some people’s mischaracterization of the gay population and about what it REALLY means to love another person.

This may NEVER come up. I’m not psychic and some of the legal nuance escapes me because I forgot to go to law school.

But the question I asked myself when I learned about the ruling Friday was: Do we really want to live in a country where the government can force states and churches and religious organizations to do things the government’s way, and/or be punished if they don’t?

I want gay people to be gay. And I want people to love and accept them, and if they can’t, to at least not cause harm.

And I want religious people to be religious. And I want people to love and accept them, and if they can’t, to at least not cause harm.

Because if BOTH of those things can’t happen simultaneously after Friday’s verdict?

Love and equality most certainly did not win.

53 thoughts on “Something About the Gay Marriage Ruling Doesn’t Feel Right”

  1. You are so right. Love most certainly did not win. All I see is hate on both sides. I am a very conservative Christian and everyone knows where I stand on this issue. I did not re-post one single propaganda-infested meme on my wall. I am troubled that very few people are talking about the scary way in which 5 out of 9 people (a very slim margin) voted and took over the democratic process and what a poor precedent this will be for future issues. It seems that being loud wins…but not really. Of course so many people on facebook look as though they will die trying to be louder than than opponent.

    1. People are very angry. Though I didn’t do a good job in this post of being equally critical of the angry people who are AGAINST the ruling for reasons that are different than mine.

      I don’t have much tolerance for the people who want to yell and scream about it because this is one of those You-can’t-know-what-it’s-like-to-walk-in-another’s-shoes situations.

  2. Great post. We shouldn’t be able to just pick and choose which rules we want to apply at the times that are convenient to us. And acceptance and tolerance should apply almost universally.

    Your post does raise some questions about the role of law though. Law is an attempt at applying rules to morals, and the people who make the laws do need to draw the lines somewhere.

    Murder is clearly on one side of the line. Is there ever situations where murder is warranted? Hard to imagine them, so it’s safe to make a law. Same as laws for protecting minors against crimes.

    But think of something like the age of consent. I don’t actually know what it is, but let’s imagine it’s 16. Certain 16 years olds may be mature enough to understand what they are doing, while in other cases people may be in their 20’s before they are mature enough. And to apply the rules, a 16 year old having sex with another 16 year old seems a hell of a lot different from a 16 year old having sex with a 40 year old.

    Yet the law can’t differentiate every situation, so it comes up with some rules that are open to error, but are “as good as they have” at the time.

    Just glad I’m not a lawmaker.

    1. You have no idea how much I appreciate your recognition of this post being about how laws are enacted in the United States.

      I think a lot of people are very uncomfortable with my headline choice.

      The law is tricky business, indeed, and I share your enthusiasm for not being someone charged with creating and/or enforcing them.

  3. Ah yes, tackling the sticky and difficult topic of the human capacity for fear and hatred and how that effects our thinking which in turn effects our behavior toward each other.

    Love conquering hate is a life long journey, for the individual and for humanity.

    It’s the rare individual who blames no one, judges no one, fears no one. Even in the solitude of their own mind and heart, they are without condemnation. To fathom the end of judgement, hatred, offense, and condemnation find the end of it within the self. So long as it exists in a person, that person will continues to expect it to exists everywhere.

    Cheers Matt for keeping the conversation going over humans not being “out of the woods yet” as far as being more loving and less hating/fearful. We’ve got a long way to go, and it can always start with the self. While I’m never surprised when anyone is in a state of fear and hatred, I am always pleased to find that rare individual who is truly living from love.

    “Defense is the first act of war.”

    1. Thank you for the kind comment, Dorothy. It’s always so nice to hear from you.

      I’m so glad you read this and still see my heart for what it is.

      I get sensitive about these things. But I’m trying to develop thicker skin. We’ll call this practice.

      Hope you’re well. 🙂

      1. This is a tough issue, though maybe everything is a tough issue. I think difficult experiences are an invitation to the party of happiness. But to get there, we’ve got to question and let go of what’s keeping us from it.

        I was getting bent over this issue on Facebook, until I realized how judgmental I was feeling. I hated anything hateful or defensive (especially being defensive in an offensive way). I was getting super frustrated with anyone preaching love, but being hateful. Hear how hypocritical I am? I can’t hope anyone will drop their hate even as they preach love if I can’t do it myself. If I didn’t want the sprout of “Love is Love” being subsumed by “Hate is Hate” so I had to tend to my own garden.

        When I read your posts, I thought, kudos to everyone who is endeavoring to love. And I mean everyone, wherever they are on this issue, if they’re doing their best to love, awesome! Because what hasn’t surprised me is that love and hate don’t neatly land on only one side or the other. I’ve heard the hate and defense coming from both sides, and that is what seriously ticked me off, or inspired me.

        And thank you for seeing my kindness, having an awesome comment section for your readers, and publishing things that may irritate thin and sensitive skin. I wouldn’t thicken it, life is better when we’re sensitive.

  4. the fundamental premise of your concern is indeed the heart of the issue, as i see it. and it’s scary to consider how this precedent could impact any or all of us in the future.

    you cannot legislate morality. you can outlaw murder and imprison violators, but you cannot take hate out of human hearts.

    you can legislate certain types if relationships as acceptable, deny their legitimacy, but you can’t change anyone’s mind about treating humans with love no matter who they are or how they believe.

    and that’s not going to change. the only thing that can change is me.

    1. You get it. Thank you.

      There is nothing that can be done in a courtroom, or even in the way I’d consider more appropriate–on Capitol Hill–that can soften the hearts and minds of people who choose hate and fear and bigotry as the means by which they operate.

  5. A Free Thinker

    Nobody is being forced to do anything. And Supreme Court Justices don’t make decisions based on popularity.

    They decide based on whether or not the law in question is constitutional according the US Constitution. State Supreme Courts decide based on the constitutionality according to individual state constitutions. This information is available to read in the opinions and dissents written for this case.

    Not everyone agrees with this. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that every citizen has the same constitutional rights.

    1. Incorrect.

      13 states are being forced to change their laws.

      I’m not challenging the constitutionality of the Supreme Court’s action. And I’m not fundamentally against two men or two women marrying legally.

      I’m saying I don’t like how this went down. And said why.

      1. A Free Thinker

        Fast answer!

        They are forced to change because Federal law trumps State law. This happens all the time. This is just how it works. Citizens of the state of Ohio could not marry last week under state law but now they can under federal law. They weren’t less entitled to that right before this decision was made solely based on residency.

        Please don’t feel criticized. As a retired professor, I always feel people form better opinions with all the information.

        1. Thank you. And I mean that very much.

          Everyone wants to scream about this. Either because they’ve been fighting this equal-rights fight for many years and feel relieved and validated that they won, or because of religious conviction (or straight-up hatred and bigotry). And both sides want to argue and “Yeah, but!” one another.

          I don’t want to do that. I’m both happy for people who were given something, as I am not dismissive of people concerned about free speech and freedom of religion issues that will likely arise from this ruling.

          None of this was meant to debate whether our gay friends should or should not be legally allowed to marry.

          It was about laws being created in a way that is scary when it’s about something bigger and scarier than marriage equality.

          It was about people examining their hearts and figuring out what they’re so scared and angry for.

          I hope it didn’t come off as me challenging anyone or anything. I just didn’t hear very many people having this conversation, and this is the place I talk about what’s on my mind.

          And I genuinely appreciate you reading and being part of it.

      2. Opponents of civil rights for blacks said the same thing. Sometimes you must take action for what is both legally and morally right, even in the face of those who wish to continue discrimination.

        1. I REALLY don’t want to debate this, because I really, truly agree that two consenting adults in America should be able to marry whomever they choose.

          And maybe I’m wrong about this because I’ve never been black or gay before, but I really feel like there’s a Grand Canyon-sized chasm between the atrocities black Americans faced (denial of being a human being equal to that of white people, education, land-owning rights, employment opportunities, voting, restaurant service, etc.) were more heinous than 13 states denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples who could drive a couple hours and get one there.

          I don’t want to trivialize the discrimination openly gay people have faced in this country. I’ve never been in those shoes, and I’m confident it’s a shitty place to be when people choose to hate you because of the who you love and/or attracted to.

          But I also think we insult the struggles of black Americans, especially in the 50s, 60s and 70s (and every day before that, and probably many after), by pretending the two human-rights conversations carried the same moral sense of urgency.

          (That said. I’ve softened on this a little after hearing some excellent legal arguments, which you can see near the bottom of this comment thread. I don’t disagree with you. I just want to be careful about apples-to-apples comparisons.)

  6. “But the question I asked myself when I learned about the ruling Friday was: Do we really want to live in a country where the government can force states and churches and religious organizations to do things the government’s way, and/or be punished if they don’t?”

    I have refused to post a comment on Facebook or reblog anything having to do with this issue for I have no desire to stir the pot. I am a conservative Christian that believes marriage is between a man and a woman. I am also able to be open minded. Who am I to judge, for no sin is greater than another, and I am sure I sin daily.

    I have three issues with Friday’s ruling: First, our government is getting too big. They are taking away our states rights. It should be the right of the state to make these individual decisions. Then, as FREE citizens we can choose which state we want to live. If I am gay, I can move to a state that supports gay marriage just as if I want to smoke pot legally, I can move to a state that supports legal pot smoking. With the government making cart blanch laws for everyone my freedoms are diminishing.

    Second, the SCOTUS just redefined marriage! They changed the definition to say that marriage is no longer between a man and a woman but a man and man or woman and woman. Well, if that is the case then we have opened the doors for polygamy or inter-family marriage to be considered legal as well. We now have to consider other options under the “Marriage” definition.

    Third, we are supposed to live in a FREE country. As citizens we are slowly losing our right to choose. I am told to wear a seat belt as well as various other things that by right should be my choice. If I choose not to wear a seat belt then I am the one who should suffer the consequences. In the same spirit, making a business owner do something that is against their belief so they don’t offend another person is not freedom. A pastor, florist, baker, etceteras should be allowed to attend to whomever they want. It is their business and their choice.

    The answer to your question for me is NO! I want to live in the country that our original founders intended it to be.

    1. 15 years ago, I would have agreed with every single thing you wrote here.

      But the more life experience (and other perspectives I gain) have forced me to ask better questions and I find myself taking very centrist political positions these days.

      I don’t think it’s productive (for me) to make a moral or social judgment on what gay couples do. They are people, I love them, and I want whatever the best thing possible is for them, and perhaps this Friday ruling IS what’s best. I don’t think I know what’s best, and if I did, I wouldn’t try to impose that on others.

      Unfortunately, Friday’s ruling conflicts with my desire to avoid politically appointed people superseding elected people.

      This is all very messy. I don’t think the average American thinks about or cares about the legal implications the way I was.

      A wonderful commenter down thread, Elizabeth Voss, did a spectacular job, I think, laying out the case for why this legally (and socially, but with a legal bent) had to happen.

      Elizabeth made the most crystal-clear arguments I’ve read or heard yet, and I can’t find one thing in either of her comments that seem anything less than fact-based, logical conclusions.

      I hope people read her comments.

      She, frankly, convinced me it’s foolish to be afraid of future legal consequences.

      We’ll find out someday.

  7. I think the ruling was a good step in us being better people BUT that is my emotional and human response.

    I wanted to know what the actual legal verbage was because this is about constitutional rights because that’s the key to the debate as I see it.

    The decision itself and every dissenting S.C. Justice’ decisions are in this pdf, so you can get every perspective with all the law you can handle.
    I found this excerpt from a link from the New York Times page on Friday

    Here is part that I thought was relative to what you spoke about and what it means to each state to have to follow. To me, it means that states have to stop discriminating against marriage rights that heterosexual people take for granted if they ever questioned their rights at all. I apologize for forgeting the page – It’s a LONG document.

    Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those
    who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate
    with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts,
    same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The
    First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and
    persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach
    the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their
    lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to
    continue the family structure they have long revered. The
    same is true of those who oppose same-sex marriage for
    other reasons. In turn, those who believe allowing samesex
    marriage is proper or indeed essential, whether as a
    matter of religious conviction or secular belief, may engage
    those who disagree with their view in an open and searching
    debate. The Constitution, however, does not permit
    the State to bar same-sex couples from marriage on the
    same terms as accorded to couples of the opposite sex.
    These cases also present the question whether the Constitution
    requires States to recognize same-sex marriages
    validly performed out of State. As made clear by the case
    of Obergefell and Arthur, and by that of DeKoe and Kostura,
    the recognition bans inflict substantial and continuing
    harm on same-sex couples.
    Being married in one State but having that valid marriage
    denied in another is one of “the most perplexing and
    distressing complication[s]” in the law of domestic relations.
    Williams v. North Carolina, 317 U. S. 287, 299
    (1942) (internal quotation marks omitted). Leaving the
    current state of affairs in place would maintain and pro-

    Opinion of the Court
    mote instability and uncertainty. For some couples, even
    an ordinary drive into a neighboring State to visit family
    or friends risks causing severe hardship in the event of a
    spouse’s hospitalization while across state lines. In light
    of the fact that many States already allow same-sex marriage—and
    hundreds of thousands of these marriages
    already have occurred—the disruption caused by the
    recognition bans is significant and ever-growing.
    As counsel for the respondents acknowledged at argument,
    if States are required by the Constitution to issue
    marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the justifications
    for refusing to recognize those marriages performed elsewhere
    are undermined. See Tr. of Oral Arg. on Question
    2, p. 44. The Court, in this decision, holds same-sex couples
    may exercise the fundamental right to marry in all
    States. It follows that the Court also must hold—and it
    now does hold—that there is no lawful basis for a State to
    refuse to recognize a lawful same-sex marriage performed
    in another State on the ground of its same-sex character.

    1. Totally agree, Jayne. I really do. My emotional response to seeing so many people so happy was very positive.

      But I sat on it all weekend, and the process, specifically, started to bother me and I didn’t see anyone (though I didn’t go looking for it) talking about it.

      Frankly, I think this came off infinitely more controversial than it actually was. But people are always going to read what they want to read and think what they want to think.

      Down thread, there are comments from a southern lawyer named Elizabeth. She did an AMAZING job explaining this, and I really appreciate her contribution. It framed this legal conversation in the proper context, I think.

      1. Thanks, I’m fascinated at how the courts reasoned this socially controversial ruling . I will read Elizabeth’s words. I just had a talk with someone who only saw that states now HAVE TO marry gay people. Like you said, we read what we want to read into things. We are all fascinating creatures.

    1. hmmmmmmmm, ambiguous!

      You’re allowed to disagree with me, Shelley. 🙂

      I never want to pretend I know everything. I’ve learned some important things from the comments on this post.

      Thank you for taking time to read!

  8. Gay marriage does NOT impede on the basic rights of anyone else. It constitutionally protects the freedom and rights of gay people and ensures their access to the same kind of rights as other partners.

    The only thing frightening about this is that it took so long. I have gay friends who have been together 30 years and have not been able to even share health benefits. It was long overdue, and that’s why it happened the way it happened.

    (Well, theoretically. It was really just a way to manipulate the public’s opinion of our current administration but I don’t care)

    Speculating that this could be a gateway to forced decrees designed to take away our inalienable rights is a little fear based, I think. These things must be evaluated on a case by case basis. In my opinion, this “sweeping overnight legal change” was necessary.

    But I respect your opinion, and understand the reasoning behind it.

    1. It’s entirely fear-based. You’re absolutely right.

      Where I see the issue arising is when a church gets sued possibly for refusing to perform a religious marital ceremony, and then a court sides with the couple and now the religious organization’s government funding (or tax exemption status) is in jeopardy. All the money they use to feed the hungry and clothe the needy and shelter the homeless.

      All the sudden they have a choice to make: Conform and go against core beliefs and church doctrine, or maybe lose enough money to jeopardize their charitable mission.

      I think that’s a bad spot to put organizations in, and every bit as unfair as suggesting two same-gender people shouldn’t be allowed to marry.

      If that situation never comes up? Then every concern I have is invalid. We won’t know ’til we know.

      I want people to love whoever they love. Always and forever.

      But I also want people to be able to practice their faith without discrimination, as well.

      I think it’s a little cavalier to suggest there won’t be some sticky crossroads here. I just think people don’t give a shit because they don’t care about being fair to people they disagree with.

      And I try to be someone who does. I want to be fair even when I disagree.

  9. I still live in a country, that would crush any ideology that is associated with the gay community..
    I for one, do not really associate with homosexuality, I guess it’s because of society and how they have successfully suppressed it here..

    This post brings me to new light, and I would wish I get a new mentality about the gay be and learn how to appreciate, what they have got to offer me and the community, completely taking my eyes of their sex life and who they choose to be alone with in private and in public..

    Great post Sire..

    1. Thank you very much for reading it.

      Where we are from and the people who surround us, influence us (and understandably so) very much.

      This is a sensitive topic for many people for many reasons.

      I think when we find a way to love and respect all people, and work really hard to find equal footing as human beings, and not find all the ways we are different, really good things can happen.

      Love other people. Start there. Always. Everything else matters less.

  10. And I suppose it’s how one looks at same sex marriage. For me, I believe marriage is a civil right. And I dont believe that an inherent right should even go to the poles. I’m no lawyer or historion but I’m not sure why people should have to campaign for the right of two consenting adults to have the same rights as other adults. That’s just really weird to me. I get states rights to determine laws according to their states’ best interest. eg. driving age, state tax, allocation of taxes, etc. But I can’t seem to wrap my head around the idea that if tables were turned and heterosexual marriage was illegal, then my husband and I would’ve had to invest thousands in campaign funds just to have the right that already exists for other populations.
    I adore your writing and all that I learn from it, but dude, consider that you might be on the wrong side of that rationale. ???

    1. I absolutely may not have thought about this entirely the right way. I get stuff wrong all the time. And I have no idea what it has been like as a gay American throughout my lifetime. But, I don’t take back one sentence in this post. I tried hard to be honest and thoughtful.

      My crime, I think, is writing all this in about an hour, when it probably should have done with much more thoroughness.

      I didn’t want this to be another pointless and divisive conversation debating the merits of gay marriage. I am for fairness and equality. Always and forever.

      I am also for voting for lawmakers, and then having those lawmakers make laws to be signed or vetoed by the president.

      I’m not unhappy gay marriage was legalized. I’m unhappy a court did it and now 13 states have to change their laws. That was supposed to be the primary point of the post.

      THAT said, if you scroll down the comment thread here and read Elizabeth’s comments (there are two, and both are outstanding), I think you’ll find she agrees with your take, and she makes the case for it while also explaining why things I was worried about are probably things I shouldn’t be worried about.

      They are a worthy read.

      Thank you for reading and commenting.

      1. Things are seemingly stable (for now); thanks for asking =) And you’re welcome. Definitely lots of folks I know needed to read that post Xx I hope things are okay with you as well <3

  11. Stefanie Atwater

    I wonder if you would feel the same way if the scouts decision was about heterosexual marriage? What if you couldnt enjoy the benefis of a federally recognized marriage? What if you couldn’t share custody of your child because your state didn’t recognize your union? This post is quite shortsighted. This important decision is not about being loved, respected and welcomed by a state. It’s about being granted full and equal citizenship.

    1. 🙁

      Hi, you. I was thinking about you when I hit that button. Your feelings (everyone’s, really) matter to me very much. Like, my insides twist up.

      I think I didn’t do a very good job writing this. I write almost all these things in about an hour during my lunch breaks, and sometimes subjects (like, say, human rights) are a little too big and important and sacred and nuanced to delicately cover in such a short time.

      I wrote the beginning of this post the way I did because I wanted people to understand how I came to believe what I believe about gay people.

      That, 1. They are no different than me. They are attracted to a different kind of person than me. I have plenty of straight friends attracted to different kinds of people, too. 2. I believe two consenting adults living in America should be afforded the EXACT SAME rights as anyone else, regardless of sexual preference, and 3. (which is BY FAR the most important point here) the fact that someone’s gay should be about the 87th most-important thing about them. I care way more about kindness and compassion and how they treat strangers and their family, etc.

      “Gay” should not be the dominant identifier of a human being. People are more than who they love.

      I wasn’t trying to make social commentary here.

      I was trying to make a case for creating and/or changing laws in a way that I think is responsible and consistent with the way our democracy is supposed to work.

      For example, there are TONS of places with laws I disagree with.

      If it was up to me, marijuana would be totally decriminalized. If it was up to me, there would be no such thing as dry counties. If it were up to me, certain businesses wouldn’t be closed on Sunday.

      But I wouldn’t like it if the government took action tomorrow to change all of those things overnight, without the legislature or electorate being involved.

      I was having a civics conversation, and apparently doing a really shitty job. And I’m so sorry, Steph.

      I am NOT unhappy this happened. The result is good.

      I am unhappy with how it happened. Because the process was bad. I think there’s a better way.

      And that’s getting everyone with fear and hatred and bigotry in their hearts to let it go and learn to see people for people, and not as something to label.

      I love you. For real.

    2. Oh. And another friend of mine told me a story.

      Said that in states where gay marriage isn’t legally recognized, a child of a gay couple can be taken by the state if one of the partners dies.

      Of all of the stories I’ve heard, that is the one that breaks my heart the most and presents the strongest argument for why this law needed to change.

      I always want whatever the “best” thing is. For everyone.

      It’s unfortunate that so many people disagree on what that is.

  12. Elizabeth Voss

    Here’s a straight, female, Catholic (all in, mother of 5), southern lawyer’s perspective. The constitution requires equal protection under the law for all citizens. This decision was legally correct. The federal government (via the courts, Congressional legislation and on rare occasion executive order) has long required the states to get on board when they lag behind (e.g. voting rights– initially for women, then many years later for people of color, desegregation, etc). If states were allowed to go their own way, Jim Crow would be the rule of law in some places and minorities would continue to face legally-sanctioned discrimination (they face discrimination anyway, but not under color /protection of law).

    People seems to forget some key things. 1) borrowing the words of Thomas Jefferson, there is a “wall of separation between Church and State” in our country — and churches do not get to dictate law — EVER; and the law DOES NOT require churches to do anything that violates their belief system (they do NOT have to allow same sex marriages in their church if it is against the tenants of their religion). The concept that we live in a country founded on Christian ideas is so far removed from the truth and actual history that I don’t even know how to respond except to say – go reread the writings of the founding fathers. They were so incredibly suspicious of intertwining religion and state that they clearly separated the two.

    The the argument that this decision somehow denigrates religious freedom is disingenuous. Think Roe v. Wade — that ruling violates the basic tenants of many churches, yet is it the law. And the common man reasoning is that one church or belief system is not allowed to legislate the legal rights of others. So, if you are against abortion or same-sex marriage, the flippant but legal response is fine — simply do not have an abortion or get same-sex married. Another example, the Catholic church opposes capital punishment — yet the law in many states allows for Capital punishment (and ironically, the same pro-life Catholics who rail against abortion remain silent about capital punishment). The federal law only prohibits cruel and unusual punishment and has time and again upheld the right of states to put people to death. Agree or not, it is the law. The problem is that some people believe their rights (and their belief systems) should allow them to prevent others from doing certain things even though the law allows it. Legal rights and moral/religious concepts/ideals are not the same thing. I do not have the right (as a Catholic) to prevent a state from executing a person convicted of a capital crime; I do not have the right as a Catholic to prevent a woman from having a legal abortion. My belief system is irrelevant to the legal RIGHTS of others;

    2) In Loving v. Virginia (1967) – the US Supreme court said that states could no longer legally prohibit people of different races from marrying. In their decision, the court said that “marriage is one the basic civil rights of man” – fundamental to our very existence and survival and all citizens are entitled to this fundamental freedom under the 14th Amendment – and not allowing someone to marry due to discrimination (in this case — based on race) violates the due process clause and equal protection clause of the constitution. For those who automatically argue that expanding this decision will lead to people marrying children or animals, the law already protects those who cannot consent to a legal marriage — it is a bogus argument;

    3) there have long been both civil and religious marriages, and the concept of marriage was a contractual arrangement long before it became a religious sacrament. The right to marry in the Obergefell case is all about civil rights and has nothing to do with religious implications. (In states where gambling is legal, a person above the age of majority has the right to gamble — even if the local Baptist church says is it sinful and forbidden.).

    People need to step back and ask, “were these gay individuals being treated differently by the law?” If they were, does the government have a legitimate reason to allow these people to be treated differently? If the only responses are religious or moral outrage or “ick” factor responses, then the court made the right decision.

    1. This is a really fantastic comment, Elizabeth. Thank you.

      This clears up a couple things I didn’t know, and I appreciate that I now do. Especially the part about the 14th Amendment, and people who make the “Where does it stop!?” argument. That’s one you hear sometimes.

      I hope it was clear (but it probably wasn’t) that I wasn’t challenging the constitutionality of the Court’s ruling. The court has to hear a case on an individual basis and make a decision on the merits of those legal arguments, accordingly. I understand and respect it.

      I was kind of taking a “meta” look at the entire thing, though.

      The general idea that five people in Washington did something that made 13 democratically elected state governments do something the majority of their citizens didn’t necessarily want them to do.

      I think you make an excellent point about state law being left to its own devices sometimes leading to legally-sanctioned discrimination.

      I also hope it’s clear that I don’t advocate discrimination of any kind.

      Boiled down to the barest of bones, I want this to be the takeaway from this post (in terms of what I think):

      1. Recognizing legal gay marriage everywhere is a good thing, but I wish it would have happened by voters and or elected officials changing the law. Color me an idealist.

      2. I’m generally fearful and distrustful of federal government action that mandates wide-scale change. (In this case, it’s FINE. But what about when it’s not?)

      3. You preemptively said you don’t think there’s anything to worry about here, but I’m not ready to believe it ’til I see it: I think we’re going to see Christian and other faith-based organizations who are told to “get with the program” or there will be severe financial penalties one way or another. And I think those organizations–no matter how much people disagree with aspects of their belief system–do more good, charitable work on this planet than anyone else. By far. No one feeds, clothes, shelters the less fortunate like the unsung heroes in church groups all over the world. And I’m not convinced that work won’t be jeopardized or compromised one day by people who disagree with their ideological or political beliefs.

      I think we’re still going to see discrimination. I just think the group of victims is going to shift. And I think fewer people are going to care. And that it’s going to be sad, because the people who will be most hurt are the marginalized homeless or impoverished people who benefit from all the charitable work these people do (as misguided politically as we often consider them).

      Thank you for leaving such a great, thoughtful comment.

      I appreciate you taking time out of your day to do that and help people, including me, form more-informed opinions.

      1. I appreciate your skepticism. My viewpoint (based on law) is that religious organizations do not need to worry. Church rules are left to the church. If the Church says that a person must complete pre-cana counseling or be baptized or confirmed before they can participate in a sacrament, the government does not have a right to infringe on the Church. So two individuals of the same sex will never be permitted to marry in a Church that doesn’t permit that under their rules, or if they do not recognize the validity of same-sex marriage. The couple can however, get married by a judge or any other civil officiant. And, they may also marry in Churches that do allow same-sex marriages such as UU Churches.

        Religious entities have long been afforded protection from laws that infringe on their beliefs. For example, Christian Scientist practitioners are not subject to the ACA individual coverage mandate because of their religious views. Churches that oppose birth control are permitted to eliminate that free preventive care benefit under the ACA. Amish practitioners are allowed to not participate in the social security system. Religious conscientious objectors do not have to serve in the military (even when there is a draft in force). There are an array of protections that religious organizations enjoy. Could a same-sex couple try to sue to be married in a particular church? Sure, but that couple would lose every single time. Under current law, unless and until Churches step out of their spiritual roles (and begin trying to inform the political process — which many churches including my own, walk a dangerous line), their tax-protected status will remain. And their good works will continue uninterrupted.

        I also appreciate and share your wish that voters would have brought this change rather than the courts. That certainly would have been ideal. But, people are traditionally slow to recognize their inhumanity (or unfair treatment if that is too strong of a word) to one another. As long as they are not the ones being oppressed, it takes a lot of time and grass roots effort to effect change. Under the majority vote always wins mentality, minorities will have few rights. It takes people of uncommon decency to identify an injustice and try to correct it when it doesn’t impact them directly. The average person (in the majority) can go about his or her life fairly oblivious — and that doesn’t make them a bad person. But, people tend to ignore things that don’t impact them regularly and directly. So, the law and the government have long been the standard bearer and protector for the minority. Without federal action, minorities would not have have civil rights in most places. I attended segregated schools in the deep south in the late 1970s. When I was in high school (early to mid ’80’s), our schools finally desegregated only because of federal court order. Sadly, my state fought desegregation tooth and nail. And yet there are mostly decent people from my state. But, the majority was oblivious and frankly indifferent to the inequity that others were subjected to because of their skin color. (I am white by the way – so I lived in a protected majority bubble.)

        1. You are a magnificent comment writer, Elizabeth.

          If you’re correct, and I have no reason to doubt you are, I take a lot of comfort in your assurances.

          You have a wonderful perspective.

          This really was amazing. Thank you so much.

    2. Such a thoughtful, bold post, Matt. I did a quiet happy dance and got a little chokey voice telling my kids that now, yes, they in fact can live anywhere in the United States and marry who they love, thank God. But then I mostly forgot about it because I know that law does not immediately erase prejudice and any one of them could still face that in their lives, who knows?
      But I would officially like to point to Professor Voss here and say, “What she said!” This is one of the most amazingly respectful and clear comments I’ve ever read. Really it helped me understand the foundation under the emotion, and that’s a beautiful thing. I want to carry her law references, her respectful sharing of them, and her clarity, around in my pocket for conversations about same sex marriage.
      And if you have such thoughtful, intelligent people writing with such clarity, and yes, kindness, then you’re doing something really well.

      1. I probably should have picked a better example than a landmark human rights Supreme Court decision as my case in point for discussing how laws are made.

        It was simply the topic de jour, and I felt like had a different take on it than everyone else I was listening to.

        I usually do, though, because on most topics, I agree with a portion of the arguments on both sides of a divisive issue.

        I think Elizabeth did a better job bringing clarity and sanity to the discussion than anyone I’ve talked to about this.

        And you summed it up, perfectly. I want to carry Elizabeth’s clear and respectful explanation around in my pocket for those very conversations.

        Always so nice to hear from you.

        (And congrats on your wonderful post about your daughter turning 5 getting FPed. Because I was the first to comment [and it’s typo-ridden so I look really smart] I’ve been getting a trillion notifications about people liking it.)

    1. That must have been a powerful experience.

      Because I’m often wordy and all over the place, I think the point I attempted to make was completely lost in translation. But I hope it’s obvious I share Olbermann’s sentiment. That love is, indeed, love.

      And it will always be the most important thing.

  13. Matt, being from the South and having been one half of a mixed race couple for most of my married life I will tell you without federal law, civil rights don’t happen. Witness what is happening today in South Carolina and across the southern states as a simple but ugly truth, churches are burning and I assure you it is in response to the fight over the Confederate Battle Flag. Witness the fight over voting rights, I can assure you on this one as well, it is an attempt to keep a particular group off the rolls.

    Where we rely upon the states to ‘do the right thing’ they will not do so left to their own devices. Consider the commentary of many public figures, including some of those currently running for high office regarding the issue of marriage and ask yourself would the remaining, mostly Southern states have ever moved to grant Civil Rights to the LGBT community? In most of these states Gay and Lesbian’s can still be fired from their jobs, simply because of the sexual orientation; they can still be denied loans and housing for the same reason.

    These denials of civil rights and human dignity, they are nothing more than Christian notions of right and wrong, they are nothing more than religion inserting itself into public life. The same arguments used to deny mixed race couples the right to marry have been used to deny Gay couples the right to marry, they very same arguments. Without federal intervention, without SCOTUS defining our Civil Rights, we cannot have a single Constitutionally level playing field for all our citizens.

    1. That was sad to read.

      I can’t say I disagree with even one of your points. I, naively sometimes, approach everything through an idealistic prism. Always have.

      “It should be this way, because of X, Y, and Z…” and in a perfect world where shitty things didn’t happen, my stance would hold up.

      But we don’t live in a world like that. I never see people mistreated because of how they look or who they love. No one I know would burn a church or not choose compassion and empathy on matters related to symbols attached to historical injustice and hatred.

      I have the luxury (and handicap) of viewing social issues through the idealistic lens because these horrible things don’t happen in front of me in the geographic or social bubble that is my life.

      I’ve heard some really good arguments over the past two days for why this was so important.

      I want to reiterate I am pleased with the result, but would have preferred voters and elected officials had enacted legal change.

      The bigger state sovereignty conversation is one I’ll need to rethink more, because I agree with you and others who have pointed out multiple instances in which states proved incapable of decency.

      1. State sovereignty only applies to those issues that are not applicable to Constitutional issues. Issues pertaining to Civil / Human Rights. Were this not the case, Jim Crow and segregation would still exist in the South. Hell Matt, were this not the case, the Southern States would have never seceded from the Union over the issue of Slavery and I assure you, the War of Treason was over Slavery, nothing more or less. Don’t believe me? I urge you to read The Cornerstone Speech by Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederate States.

        1. I agree. I do.

          I work hard at pragmatism. Really hard. And I don’t always assume I’m right.

          Idealistically, I stand by what I wrote. I want laws to change the way laws are supposed to be made. We vote for lawmakers, and they write bills and vote for them. I think it’s a good system. (On paper. In real life, it’s a bit of a cluster most of the time.)

          But some really smart people (like you) presented smart, sensible arguments that have alleviated 90-percent of my problem with how this all worked out.

          I really prefer when the federal government is not involved in our lives.

          But on human rights matters, I’m buying the argument that federal protection is a necessary evil to prevent hateful bigots from fucking with people they don’t like because of their skin color, or religious beliefs, or sexual orientation.

          Other than a few years in Florida, I’ve always lived north of the Mason-Dixon line.

          I know racism still exists, but it’s like my brain can’t comprehend that there are people who think skin pigment is the most important thing about another person.

          I probably write too cavalierly sometimes from my little nook of the world without accounting for radically different cultures elsewhere.

          Still trying to figure it all out. Too slowly, it seems.

  14. I love this. This is exactly how I felt about it. I was labeled a hateful bigot for saying these things but I still feel this way.

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Matt Fray

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