The U.S. Supreme Court announced Friday that it hear arguments in two important but very different cases involving gay marriage, raising the odds that it will soon establish the basic legal architecture for how that issue is handled in the future.
One case, out of New York, addresses how the federal government must handle gay marriages that are conducted in states where such marriages are legal. The second, out of California, raises the more fundamental question of whether gay marriage is a right protected under the Constitution’s promise of equal protection.
Given the range of legal questions at stake in those two cases, the court’s final ruling next June could take any number of turns. And you just know that Justice Antonin Scalia is itching to get his hands on this issue.
However, it is also important to point out that however the nine justices decide, all final decisions on the matter will be made by the American people. And they have already made it clear that we will not be going backward on this issue, and that whatever the Supreme Court’s ruling this year, in time the right to marry will be extended to all Americans, gay or straight.
Young people support that right overwhelming. Despite the stern opposition of their church, almost 60 percent of Catholics support it. According to a Pew poll in July, political independents support it by an 11-point margin. Black Americans, long dubious of the notion, also support it in increasing numbers.
As recently as 1996, 65 percent of Americans rejected the notion of gay marriage; only 27 percent supported it. Yet in the July Pew poll, 48 percent of Americans supported it and just 44 percent opposed it. That is an extraordinary shift in public opinion in just 16 years, on an issue that that you might think people might be stubborn about.
So do your worst, Justice Scalia. At worst, you and others can temporarily affect the pace of the change that is taking place across this country. But you cannot affect the final outcome.
– Jay Bookman