Thursday, June 27, 2013

SCOTUS rulings on DOMA and Prop 8: A great day for gay rights, equality, and America's noblest ideals

By Michael J.W. Stickings

(photo from the San Francisco Chronicle)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013 was quite the day:

No, not a perfect day in these terms:

-- SCOTUS's Prop 8 ruling was based on standing, not on the merits of the case, and so not in and of itself a validation of same-sex marriage. The lower court ruling against Prop 8 stands, meaning that same-sex marriage is now legal in California, but this has no impact on other states.

-- SCOTUS did find the odious DOMA unconstitutional in that it violates the Fifth Amendment, and this is a much greater victory, but state laws against same-sex marriage remain in place and states are not required to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.

The hope is that the argument against DOMA -- "deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment," Justice Kennedy wrote for the majority -- ultimately applies in some form to states as well.

But here's also a sense that the Roberts Court as currently constituted may simply want to move on from this. It didn't block progress, and didn't pull a Dred Scott (issuing a terrible ruling that will be widely ridiculed in future). It struck down a federal law as many lower courts had done, and it stayed out, more or less, of a state matter. Sure, we know where Scalia, Alito, and Thomas stand on the matter, but as a whole SCOTUS, perhaps rather predictably, fell short of making a sweeping decision and sent the matter back to the states to deal with. Which is to say, it took a generally conservative view of federalism and waved progress along without interfering too much, nudging it back on the right track.

In any event, these two rulings add up to a major, historic victory for same-sex marriage and, more broadly, as I tweeted, for the ideals to which America professes to aspire.

With so much of the political landscape dominated by Republican extremism, obstructionism, and scandalmongering, with so little being done to address America's problems (including its culture of rampant gun violence), with President Obama pushing an old-fashioned moderate Republican agenda instead of progressive change (we can believe in), and with so much recent attention on the NSA and the growing surveillance state, and the erosion of civil liberties that that entails, I must say I had lost a great deal of whatever hope and optimism I had left, which wasn't much but still something to cling to.

No, the world didn't change yesterday, but for once things seemed to get a whole lot better.


Here, from TPM via Mustang Bobby, is the day, a great day, in 100 seconds:

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