Rush Limbaugh said that allowing gay marriage in America is now “inevitable.” Do you agree?
The popular talk-show host told his radio audience the issue was lost when the word “marriage” was redefined. “So far as I’m concerned, once we started talking about ‘gay marriage,’ ‘traditional marriage,’ ‘opposite-sex marriage,’ ‘same-sex marriage,’ ‘hetero-marriage,’ we lost. It was over. It was just a matter of time.”
It is amazing to me how quickly sentiment on this issue has changed. When the Defense of Marriage Act was introduced in Congress in 1996, the measure defining “marriage” as the union of one man and one woman enjoyed overwhelming popular support. It sailed through the House of Representatives by a vote of 342-67 and by an 85-14 vote in the Senate. It was promptly signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton.
Now, the former President says he regrets that decision. He has been outspoken in his support for the right of gays and lesbians to marry. And he hopes that the Supreme Court will declare that the legislation he himself signed into law is ruled unConstitutional.
Most of the Democratic Senators who voted for the measure agree with him. Of the 36 who are still in the Senate, 27 have come out in support of gay marriage. There has not been nearly as big a shift on the Republican side of the aisle. Of the 51 Republican senators who voted for DOMA and are still in office, only two have changed their position.
DOMA was one of two challenges to the definition of marriage that occupied the Supreme Court (and much of the media) last week. The other was California’s Proposition 8, an amendment to the California constitution approved by voters in 2008.
The California initiative was in response to a ruling by the California Supreme Court overturning an earlier measure, Proposition 22, that tried to outlaw same-sex marriage in the State. But Proposition 22 was an ordinary statute, not a constitutional amendment. It was invalidated by the California Supreme Court in 2008. Opposition to that ruling led to the passage of Proposition 8 later that year.
Of course, that measure quickly faced legal challenges. In 2010, U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that the new measure was also unConstitutional. However, at the same time he also issued a stay of his ruling, pending appeal.
Last year, a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Walker’s decision but also continued a stay on the ruling until it could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. And that’s where the matter stands today.
Same-sex marriages are now legal in nine States and Washington, D.C., as the result of court rulings, statutory changes made by legislative bodies and popular vote.
Across the country, voters in a majority of States have said that marriage should be defined as the union of one man and one woman. Thirty-eight States have passed legislation banning same-sex marriages, most in the form of amendments to their constitutions. You won’t be surprised to learn that these are among the more conservative States in the union; in fact, Mitt Romney carried 24 of them last November.
So what happens now? There’s no question what the advocates of marriage equality want to see: a Supreme Court decision declaring unequivocally that gays and lesbians have a Constitutional right to marry in every State, no matter what the local laws or State constitution might say.
Meanwhile, about the best the opponents can do is hope that the Supreme Court will agree that this should not be a Federal issue and that, instead, the requirements for getting married should be left to the individual States to decide, as has been the case for more than 200 years.
You won’t be surprised to learn that that is my own position as well. By and large, I have a very “live and let live” attitude. I don’t care if a gay couple wants to live together. I don’t want any say in what their domestic arrangements should be. Voters in three States have agreed to allow them to get married in their State, and I have no doubt that number will increase. I just don’t want to see it done as a matter of judicial decree.
It’s difficult to argue what our Founding Fathers would say on the subject, since they would undoubtedly be dumbfounded by the suggestion that homosexual couples should be allowed to marry. However, they did establish some clear Constitutional principles that I hope would apply here.
First is the principle that most matters should not be up to the Federal government to decide. It is good for different States to have different policies on different matters. Competition and diversity are positives, not negatives; they will lead to more benefits than any proscribed uniformity.
Who can get married and under what circumstances should not be a matter for the Federal government to decide. It never has been in the past; it shouldn’t be in the future.
Marriage licenses aren’t issued by the Federal government. Traditionally, it has been left to each individual State to decide what requirements (age, residency, blood test, etc.) should be followed.
“Let’s not make a Federal case of it” is a sentiment that should be applied more often than it is. Is there any chance that the Supreme Court will accept it on this very divisive issue?
I suspect the answer is no. I’m afraid that the same court that found a specious way to rule that Obamacare is Constitutional will declare that prohibiting gays from getting married is not, which means that the country is about to take another gigantic lurch to the left.
I hate to agree with Limbaugh on this. But, yes, I think it’s inevitable.
Until next time, keep some powder dry.