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Unless you have been living in a total social media blackout, you probably heard that the Supreme Court handed down a decision yesterday that legalized gay marriage across the United States. At a 5-4 split, this was about as narrow a victory as we can get. Justice Anthony Kennedy penned the majority opinion, joined by Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, and the incomparable Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Kennedy’s opinion is a beautiful piece of legal writing that will probably quickly become a standard reading at queer weddings. The dissents written by the Court’s conservative wings, however, are some epic-level sour grape hissyfits. I read these opinions so you don’t have to, and here I present 21 of the “best” complaints from these gentlemen.
Chief Justice John Roberts
1. “Five lawyers have closed the debate and enacted their own vision of marriage as a matter of constitutional law. Stealing this issue from the people will for many cast a cloud over same-sex marriage, making a dramatic social change that much more difficult to accept.”
Justice Roberts seems to think that somehow queer folks would be better fighting a state-to-state battle for legal recognition, and somehow by granting coast-to-coast recognition of the legality of gay marriage, the Court has somehow “stolen” an opportunity from the activist community. The implication that it will be more “difficult to accept” this “dramatic social change” is that we should be concerned chiefly about how straight people feel about us getting married. I don’t know about you all, but I’m way more concerned about the legal protections that marriage recognition grants me than about straight people being really cranky about me having them.
2. “The Court invalidates the marriage laws of more than half the States and orders the transformation of a social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia, for the Kalahari Bushmen and the Han Chinese, the Carthaginians and the Aztecs. Just who do we think we are? “
I feel like Justice Roberts really ought to go back and take a basic anthropology or history class. He seems to implying here that all civilization across time have had some kind of unevolving, identical notion of what marriage is. It’s certainly not like the Judeo-Christian tradition treated women like property for thousands of years and allowed men to have multiple wives, and it’s not as though plural marriage is practiced to this day in several parts of the world. Oh, and there’s that whole thing where people of different races weren’t allowed to marry in the US until rather recently. Who do we think we are? We think we’re literally everyone forever, evolving our social institutions for fit our current society.
3. “The majority may be right that the “history of marriage is one of both continuity and change,” but the core meaning of marriage has endured. “
Roberts is trying to refute that idea that marriage evolves by clinging to this idea that the part about it being “man and woman” is somehow special. I daresay if you had asked the average American about what marriage was in the 1900s, they’d have said something about the importance of both people being the same race and religion. Roberts might as well be stamping his feet and shouting “BUT THE STRAIGHT PART IS WHAT WAS SUPER IMPORTANT!”
4. “Same-sex couples remain free to live together, to engage in intimate conduct, and to raise their families as they see fit. No one is ‘condemned to live in loneliness’ by the laws challenged in these cases—no one.”
Basically, “we let you carry on with your gross gay stuff without imprisoning you! What more do you want?!” Roberts is arguing that there’s no “punishment” for being in a same sex relationship. You know, other than lack of access to all the really important legal benefits of marriage.
5. “Indeed, from the standpoint of history and tradition, a leap from opposite-sex marriage to same-sex marriage is much greater than one from a two-person union to plural unions, which have deep roots in some cultures around the world. If the majority is willing to take the big leap, it is hard to see how it can say no to the shorter one.”
Even a man as educated as John Roberts seems to cling to this whole slippery-slope garbage that somehow we’re now much closer to plural marriage than we were a few days ago. At least he didn’t argue that we’re also going to start trying to marry our cats.
6. “Indeed, however heartened the proponents of same-sex marriage might be on this day, it is worth acknowledging what they have lost, and lost forever: the opportunity to win the true acceptance that comes from persuading their fellow citizens of the justice of their cause. And they lose this just when the winds of change were freshening at their backs.”
Once again, Roberts is convinced that somehow the court did LGB people a disservice by legalizing gay marriage, because we don’t have the “opportunity” to pour additional years of time and money into convincing other people that we’re deserving of that right. (This is especially absurd when you consider all of the rights we’ve yet to secure for the most vulnerable members of the LGBTQ community, which are in desperate need of the kind of sustained activist attention that has been paid to same-sex marriage.) In other words “we don’t feel like you worked hard enough for this, so we don’t think you really deserve it.” Roberts also seems to think that somehow the public opinion about gay marriage is going to stop evolving now that the court has ruled, even though that absolutely hasn’t been the case in every state that had gay marriage legalized through judicial challenges.
7. “It is one thing for the majority to conclude that the Constitution protects a right to same-sex marriage; it is something else to portray everyone who does not share the majority’s “better informed understanding” as bigoted.”
How dare we suggest that people who seek to oppress others are bigots! There’s absolutely no bigotry in thinking other people are somehow less than you are, right?
Justice Antonin Scalia
8. “Until the courts put a stop to it, public debate over same-sex marriage displayed American democracy at its best. Individuals on both sides of the issue passionately, but respectfully, attempted to persuade their fellow citizens to accept their views.”
Can I start by with just a BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Yes, let’s talk about how respectful the opponents of gay marriage have been. It’s not as though the Right has suggested that gay people are child molesters, or made doom-and-gloom predictions about gay marriage bringing the end of the United States. Certainly, forcing a highly discriminated-against minority group to beg and plead the American public for scraps of safety and equality is the best display of what democracy is all about.
9. “When the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified in 1868, every State limited marriage to one man and one woman, and no one doubted the constitutionality of doing so. That resolves these cases. “
So everything that was regarded as constitutional in 1868 is absolutely decided forever and ever, and we should never talk about these things again. Got it.
10. “Really? Who ever thought that intimacy and spirituality were freedoms? And if intimacy is, one would think Freedom of Intimacy is abridged rather than expanded by marriage. Ask the nearest hippie.”
I…what? Where did hippies enter into this? Is hippie some kind of shorthand for liberal or progressive? Is it 1965? I mean, I know that Scalia pines for long-gone eras, but still.
11. “How can a better informed understanding of how constitutional imperatives define an urgent liberty, give birth to a right?”
I feel like like Scalia is just an old man yelling at clouds at this point. He’s basically like two thoughts away from “I don’t know what all this hippy-dippy bullshit means”. I’d be willing to bet Justice Ginsburg explained it slowly using small words, but he just huffed about mouthy women.
Justice Clarence Thomas
12. “Yet the majority invokes our Constitution in the name of a “liberty” that the Framers would not have recognized, to the detriment of the liberty they sought to protect.”
There are all kinds of things that the Framers wouldn’t have recognized, like airplanes, the Internet, and Starbucks. Seriously, we’re going to base everything we ever discuss on what a bunch of rich white guys from three centuries ago would have thought? I bet they’d be really confused by drones and interracial marriage and NSA spying and a black president.
13. “When read in light of the history of that formulation, it is hard to see how the “liberty” protected by the Clause could be interpreted to include anything broader than freedom from physical restraint.”
Thomas seems to be really upset that we now take the term “liberty” in the US mean something more than “moving around without interference.” You know, aside from it being regularly used is constitutional law for 200 years. It’s like Thomas is like “Dammit, we’ve got too much of this liberty crap. Less liberty for everyone!”
14. “Petitioners cannot claim, under the most plausible definition of “liberty,” that they have been imprisoned or physically restrained by the States for participating in same-sex relationships. To the contrary, they have been able to cohabitate and raise their children in peace. They have been able to hold civil marriage ceremonies in States that recognize same-sex marriages and private religious ceremonies in all States. They have been able to travel freely around the country, making their homes where they please. Far from being incarcerated or physically restrained, petitioners have been left alone to order their lives as they see fit.”
Thomas seems to using a similar line of argument that because we are no longer legally kept for all manner of gay stuff, that bans on gay marriage aren’t infringing on “liberty.” Of course, it’s a bit of a stretch to say we’re allowed to “cohabitate in peace” given the constant threats of violence and harassment we face and extraordinarily high rates of LGBTQ homelessness. Also, apparently because we can get married in some places, everything is okay. In fact, the fact that we can now all get married in all places doesn’t mean that everything is okay, either, or that the situation he describes gay people living in is realistic for all citizens. As you’ve likely heard today, marriage equality is a small piece of the larger fight.
15. “To the extent that the Framers would have recognized a natural right to marriage that fell within the broader definition of liberty, it would not have included a right to governmental recognition and benefits.”
Basically, we could call ourselves married, but the government shouldn’t have to give us any of the benefits it created for straight people, because reasons.
16. “Had the majority allowed the definition of marriage to be left to the political process—as the Constitution requires—the People could have considered the religious liberty implications of deviating from the traditional definition as part of their deliberative process. Instead, the majority’s decision short-circuits that process, with potentially ruinous consequences for religious liberty.”
Justice Thomas seems to be convinced that gay people are going to start marching into churches and demanding marriage ceremonies for religious leaders who don’t support gay marriage. You know, for funsies. It’s not like our weddings are super-important to us. We’re totally down with some guy sneering and grinding his teeth through our ceremony just to prove a point. I literally have no idea how Thomas thinks we’re going to force people to be involved in our weddings. Are going to call the police and report churches that won’t marry gay people and have them arrested, or something? Weddings are expensive! We’re conscious consumers! We’re not about to force a bigot to take our cake money.
17. “Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved. Those held in internment camps did not lose their dignity because the government confined them. And those denied governmental benefits certainly do not lose their dignity because the government denies them those benefits.”
I nearly spit coffee all over my laptop when I read this line. Unfortunately, we can’t actually ask forever slaves about their dignity, but I have to imagine that being literal property that can be killed at a the will of a white person would pretty much destroy one’s dignity. I wonder how the countless Japanese-Americans who were forced into camps during World War II would respond if you asked them about if they felt they had been robbed of their dignity by the federal government?
Justice Samuel Alito
18. “For today’s majority, it does not matter that the right to same-sex marriage lacks deep roots or even that it is contrary to long-established tradition.”
Apparently, we can only have rights if they have “deep roots” [whatever that means] or if they aren’t contrary to long-established tradition. Oh right, except when we allowed women to not be property of their husbands, despite that being a millennia-old tradition.
19. “If this traditional understanding of the purpose of marriage does not ring true to all ears today, that is probably because the tie between marriage and procreation has frayed. Today, for instance, more than 40% of all children in this country are born to unmarried women. This development undoubtedly is both a cause and a result of changes in our society’s understanding of marriage”
OH NO. Marriage is no longer all about making babies! CLEARLY SOCIETY IS BREAKING DOWN AS WE SPEAK. It’s not like we already have too damn many people anyway! Unmarried mothers caused gay marriage!
20. “[This decision] will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy. In the course of its opinion, the majority compares traditional marriage laws to laws that denied equal treatment for African-Americans and women. The implications of this analogy will be exploited by those who are determined to stamp out every vestige of dissent. “
Oh man, look how much gay marriage is going to oppress straight people. It’s not like giving women the right to vote stopped men from being total sexist assholes. Gay people are now going to seek out every person who disagree with gay marriage and yell at them until they agree with us, because the Supreme Court says we can.
21. “I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools. “
Alito seems horrified that people who act like bigots will be labeled as bigots for their bigoted views. This is like when white people say racist shit and then act like being called “racist” is the most offensive thing that just happened. He seems totally convinced that hating gay people and wanting them to not have the same legal protections as straight people isn’t bigotry. Probably because gay people are icky or something.