Same Sex Marriage a Constitutional Right!


Ingrid and Greta holding hands at Skepticon 6 Biblename Foto Josiah Mannion

It’s not just that the Federal government recognizes same-sex marriage. It’s not just that states have to recognize same-sex marriages from other states. The Supreme Court has ruled that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage is now legal in all 50 states.

Here’s the full majority opinion, written by Justice Kennedy. It’s worth reading. It got me tearing up in places.

I’m tickled pink about this, for all the obvious reasons. I’m actually finding myself uncharacteristically tongue-tied: this is so obvious, it has been so obvious for so long, I’m finding it hard to put into words exactly why this is important and wonderful. Marriage equality is, you know, equality. Millions of couples around the United States are no longer second-class: our marriages are seen as fully valid, with the same rights and responsibilities as any other. To put it in personal terms: Every year, Ingrid and I go to Skepticon in Missouri. This year, it’ll be the first time we won’t have the constant worry in the back of our minds, “What happens if one of us gets sick or hurt? What happens if some asshole at the hospital decides not to let us make medical decisions for each other, or even let us visit each other — because they think gay sex makes baby Jesus cry?”

Now, multiply that by millions. Millions of couples around the country can now visit each other in the hospital, make medical decisions for each other, adopt kids together, file state income taxes together, travel from state to state without their marriages disappearing and re-appearing and disappearing again.

I’m also, just personally for myself, enjoying an opportunity to have been proven wrong. When the recent cases on marriage equality were first brought to the Supreme Court, I was one of the people saying it was a bad idea. Many of us thought that the current court would deny the freedom to marry — and that this would set a precedent it would take decades to overturn. I’m deeply happy to have been proven wrong.

And finally: I’m delighted that we can now move on.

There’s been considerable debate within the LGBTQ community about the priority that’s been placed on same-sex marriage. Many in our community argued that other issues — employment rights, housing rights, homelessness among LGBT teens, school bullying, the epidemic of violence against trans people and especially against trans women of color — were more important for more of us. It was argued that other issues have a greater impact on queers who are poor, working class, disabled, immigrants, trans people, people of color, and others in our community with multiple marginalizations — and that the emphasis we placed on marriage was another example of more privileged LGBT people being put front and center.

Myself, I had mixed feelings about this. I certainly saw that point, and even agreed with it. At the same time, I also thought that we don’t always get to choose our battles: some issues catch the public heart and the public imagination, and same-sex marriage has clearly done that. And I thought winning same-sex marriage would make our other fights go easier. The legal precedent helps, of course: but maybe more importantly, the fight for same-sex marriage has changed people’s minds about us, in a way that few of other our fights have done. I think that when straight people saw us fighting for love, and fighting for the right to make commitments and take on responsibilities based on that love, it humanized us — and I think that will help us win our other fights. But yes, I definitely saw the point people were making, and even agreed with it. I think there are other issues for LGBTQ people that are more important than marriage.

I’m delighted that we can now move on.

We won marriage. Let’s take this weekend to celebrate. It’s Pride Weekend in San Francisco and in many other cities: let’s take this weekend to celebrate, to recognize the hard work we put into this and to to enjoy our victory. And on Monday morning, let’s roll up our sleeves, and get to work — on employment rights, on housing rights, on homelessness among LGBT teens, on school bullying, on the epidemic of violence against trans people and especially against trans women of color, on the hundreds of other ways that LGBT people are still treated as second-class citizens.

We won marriage. Let’s take that momentum, take those changed hearts and minds, and put it to work.

Comment policy for this post: If you want to be negative or douchy about marriage, do it another time, or don’t do it here. Today, I just want to celebrate and be happy.

Photo copyright Biblename Photo/Josiah Mannion.

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Greta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

Same Sex Marriage a Constitutional Right!

14 thoughts on “Same Sex Marriage a Constitutional Right!

  1. 1

    The tl;dr version can be found in the ruling’s summary:

    “The Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-State.”

    The rest is commentary.

  2. 2

    **takes a moment to bask in victory**

    “At the same time, I also thought that we don’t always get to choose our battles: some issues catch the public heart and the public imagination, and same-sex marriage has clearly done that. And I thought winning same-sex marriage would make our other fights go easier.”

    This has always been my thought about this debate. Plenty of other issues are just as important, or even more so, but marriage equality is where the religious right drew the line in the sand. So we showed up there, and broke them.

    One battle is not the war. But a particularly important battle, one that both sides pour vast, untold resources into, where one side can claim a particularly glorious victory, … a battle like this can potentially decide the war. I’m deeply hopeful that this is the case here.

  3. 6

    I’m not gay, likely to get married, an American nation nor an American resident, thus this won’t directly affect me in any material way I can think of. And yet, still the best birthday present I had today.

  4. 7

    My wife and I just got married on Sunday after almost twelve years together. We’re a heterosexual couple, so no one ever questioned our right to marry if and when we chose, and no one was ever going to challenge the legality of our marriage. This ruling, and indeed our marriage itself, has little effect on our relationship which we have built over so many years. But to know that the marriages of my gay and lesbian friends and neighbors are now guaranteed the same legal recognition and protection throughout the US as ours is, I feel greater confidence, joy, and pride in participating in this social institution, knowing that our legal recognition is not merely an accident of our orientation.

    One thing that I think is great about this ruling, legal-wise (and I’m no lawyer so this is totally a lay understanding): it seems the majority relied heavily on the notion of “equal protection” in their opinion. This seems like GREAT news, from the perspective of setting precedent. Yes, there’s still a huge amount of work to be done on LGBT issues, exactly as you point out. But the affirmation that equal protection extends to sexual orientation including the right to marry whoever you choose seems like something that has far-reaching, positive implications beyond just marriage. I hope before too long we can get a ruling that affirms the same application of equal protection to gender identity.

  5. 8

    Congratulations, Greta and all people in the US.

    I was going to say a couple of things, but Biogeo already did, so hear, hear.

    I hope that, here in Australia, marriage equality is achieved sooner rather than later; there’s currently a fair amount of discussion about it in our online media, with reasonable calls for the ruling coalition’s Liberal Party to allow their elected members a “conscience vote” (free, no party opinion) on the three bills currently making their way through parliament.

    In a weird way, I hope that the Aussie Catholic bishops who are actively opposing marriage equality remain bigoted, hidebound anchors holding back the moral evolution of humanity: Anything that further isolates that church from the 21st century and drives its parishioners away is fine by me; the sooner such troglodytic monoliths fade into objects of ridicule and irrelevance the better.

  6. 9

    It does not diminish or de-prioritize the bullying, the anti-trans craziness, the persistence of bogus ‘cures’ for sexual minorities etc. etc.

    But somehow, the marriage thing was SO specific about LGBTQ people, and so broadly aimed at all of them, that I agree that it has some priority.

    That the Wingnut Brigade invested so much money and rage into this one makes it especially important. Now we can fight them on reproductive rights, on secular education, on sane nationwide gun laws, on basing policy on facts rather than bronze-age fantasies.

  7. Ani

    So happy about this ruling and glad to be alive to see it happen.

    I think the reason same-sex marriage caught people’s hearts is because accepting people’s sexual orientation and gender identity is so closely linked with accepting their romantic relationships. But of course, we must continue on. Hoping that more and more people will have the support of their families and communities moving forward and that things get even better.

  8. 12

    Greta, I’m so happy for you and Ingrid and every same-sex couple in the US! It may be just one battle won, but it feels like this was the decisive battle: from here, it can only get better. This serves as an example to the rest of the world. So let’s celebrate!

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