Courting Gay Marriage
First, there was Republican Senator Rob Portman’s reversal on the issue after learning in recent years that his son, Will, a junior at Yale, is gay. That kicked off a series of other politicians coming out in support of gay marriage, from conservative Democratic Senators such as Claire McCaskill, Mark Warner and Jon Tester to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
While all of these high-profile endorsements are important, their influence pales in comparison to the current case before the Supreme Court. On Tuesday, justices heard oral arguments in the case of Proposition 8, California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. If the justices declare the law unconstitutional, it is possible that they could do so on the grounds of making marriage a universal right, effectively legalizing same-sex unions nationwide. This would be a kind of judicial activism unseen since the still controversial Roe vs. Wade decision.
However, the most likely outcome of the case is for the Court to strike down the ban but avoid a larger declaration on the issue. During the oral arguments, several justices expressed reluctance for such a wide-sweeping declaration. Many jurists and legal scholars — including Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — believe the Roe vs. Wade decision was a mistake, one that made abortion vastly more controversial by taking away the power of individual states to decide the issue themselves.
Gay marriage as it stands today is already a divisive issue, but the trend has been toward acceptance. A recent CNN poll showed that 58% of Americans now support same-sex marriages, a record high. Will the justices go along with public opinion and come out in support of the issue? Or will they let individual states continue the slow but steady march of progress?
Only time will tell.