When Irish Ayes Are Smiling

Ireland, a Catholic nation, although with a clearly waning commitment to church dogma, has become the first country to legalize same-sex marriage through a popular vote, and by a resounding margin. Perhaps even more notable, after the vote, the leader of the faction against gay marriage sent a message of congratulations to the advocates of marriage equality, saying, “Well done.” 

 How absolutely un-American! 

 America has been shamed by the citizens of Ireland, as the forces of sexual oppression in the land of the free and the home of the brave continue their assault against gay marriage by any and all means of personal humiliation and legal obstruction.  The latest episode, perpetrated by the idiots of Indiana, had the unintended consequence of bringing some of the nation’s largest corporations squarely to the side of the gay marriage movement, forcing that state, along with their Arkansan brothers in bigotry to back down on legislation clearly designed to allow their anti-gay citizens to figuratively spit in the faces of gay people by refusing them access to business services.  We can take some comfort that at least once in a while, common sense (or in this case, maybe just corporate convenience) can undo blatantly cynical injustice. 

 And now we await a decision from our Supreme Court as to whether our Constitution affords gay people the right to marry anywhere in the United States.  With three-quarters of the states already having approved same-sex marriage and others poised to do so, and with virtually every poll of voters also clearly in favor of marriage rights for gay people, the justices should have no doubt as to where the population stands.  And while that should not be their primary concern, it certainly should have some influence on their deliberations.  But as usual, the court has options by which it can avoid answering the question with a yes-or-no decision.  It can cop out by leaving the issue to the states individually, in effect ruling that gay marriage is not a federal concern and has no constitutional guarantee, or it can bob and weave by deciding that every state must honor the legality of a same-sex marriage performed in a state where it is permitted.   Neither option would put America in the same class of courage and commitment to individual freedom as Ireland.  Nothing short of an unequivocal Supreme Court decision that the U.S. Constitution affords gay people the equal right to marry can bring America up to the standard of justice and humanity set by the people of Ireland and elsewhere.

 I believe the Supreme Court will in fact vote, at least on this issue, to bring America kicking and screaming into the 21st century.  My prediction is a 6-3 decision in favor of the constitutionality of same sex marriage, with Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito unsurprisingly voting against it.  I think Justice Kennedy will stay true to his history of support for the rights of the gay community, and Chief Justice Roberts will vote with the majority seeing that his more usual reactionary tilt will not change the result.  It wouldn’t be the first time he put his putative legacy as leader of the court above his politically motivated leanings, which he did in supporting Obamacare through the convoluted reasoning that the payment for not being insured was not a penalty but rather a tax which Congress had the right to impose. 

 If I’m wrong and the decision is not a clear statement of a constitutional guarantee of same-sex marriage, this so-called “Christian nation” of ours (ironically claimed by the most politically un-Christian of right wing conservatives) will continue its legal and legislative dysfunctional descent into a banana republic.