Thursday, March 28, 2013

Left Side of the Aisle #101 - Part 1

More good news on same-sex marriage

A bit of good news to start the day. Last week, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed into law a measure recognizing civil unions for same sex couples in the state. The law takes effect May 1.

In 2006, Colorado became one of the states stampeded by bigotry and fear into adopting an amendment to the state constitution defining marriage as one man and one woman, so the legislature could not adopt a same-sex marriage bill. But there was nothing to prevent the establishment of civil unions that are virtually the same in all respects except for the title.

Colorado thus will join eight states that have civil unions or similar laws; a few more have some form of domestic partnership which provides at least some of the same benefits as a marriage or a civil union. Nine states and the District of Columbia allow gay marriage, a number that may increase by two this year.

This of course takes place in the atmosphere of the Supreme Court's consideration of California's Proposition 8, or Prop Hate as it came to be known, and about DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act. Oral arguments took place Tuesday and Wednesday in the face of increasing expressions of public support for same-sex marriage that are threatening to go beyond an outpouring and into a deluge.

In addition to such high-profile voices as Rob Portman and Hillary Clinton, there are lower-profile but still politically-significant voices coming around, including current Sens. Claire McCaskill, Mark Warner, Jay Rockefeller, and Tim Johnson, as well as former senators Bill Bradley, Tom Daschle, Christopher Dodd, and Alan Simpson. The latter four submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in support of same-sex marriage. Significantly, those four, along with Warner and Rockefeller, all voted for DOMA when it was before the Senate in 1996.

Meanwhile, the American Academy of Pediatrics has declared support for marriage equality for all consenting adults as, it said, a way of providing long-term security and benefits for their children. It also endorsed full adoption and foster care rights for all parents, regardless of sexual orientation.

And the American Sociological Association has declared that children in same-sex households do just as well as those in opposite-sex ones, thus rejecting one of the arguments used against same-sex marriages. In the course of that, it specifically and by name repudiated a junk science effort published last year which claimed - falsely - to have proved that an opposite-sex couple is the gold standard for child welfare.

By the way, the AMA endorsed same-sex marriage over 18 months ago, saying such a ban is “discriminatory” and leads to disparities in health care that hurt both families and children.

Standing against this tide, we have people like retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss, who expressed his staunch opposition to same-sex marriage last week, saying, quoting, "I’m not gay. So I’m not going to marry one." That's a statement which I doubt is going to leave too many broken hearts in its wake.

Now, there is no particular reason to think the members of the reactionary wing of the Supreme Court will remove their ideological blinders long enough to take any more note of changing public opinion than they have of precedent of precedent in previous decisions, but on the other hand it has long been said that the members of the Court read the polls  and it's certainly possible to wonder how many of them are prepared to leave a legacy of standing on the wrong side of history, to wonder how many want to be remembered by history for being part of the Dred Scott v. Sandford or the Plessy v. Ferguson of this generation.

It will also be interesting to see how Chief Justice John Roberts reacts to the various friend of the court briefs filed by right-wing groups, which generally use a narrow definition of "family" - a man, a woman, and their biological children - and especially to the statement of John Eastman, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, who said that adopted children are "the second-best option." John Roberts and his wife have two children - both adopted.


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