The U.S. Supreme Court seems to be taking a page from Congress when it comes to the issue of same sex marriage – it’s decided to do nothing. At least this time there is a silver lining. By not agreeing to hear appeals on three lower court rulings, gay marriage will be allowed immediately in five states: Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin. It will be legalized soon in six more states, bringing the total number allowing same sex marriage to 30 plus the District of Columbia.
That’s only a partial victory at best. There are 20 states left behind. It’s baffling that a country that is supposed to be a beacon of freedom for the rest of the world is so far behind more than a dozen other developed nations. Hell, even England beat us to the punch. Yet the Supreme Court continues to leave it to the states. Since when has it been a good idea to leave civil rights to states? Can you imagine where we would be if the federal government never stepped in during the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s? Of course the government dragged its feet to sort that out too (and many would argue it still hasn’t).
I understand religion plays a role in this debate. I respect that. I don’t agree with it, but that is the beauty of this country. That is the beauty of the separation of church and state. This country was built on the ideal that people with different ideas and backgrounds are able to live alongside one another to build a better a future for themselves and their families. That’s what this debate is about – same sex couples having that same opportunity. Having that same protection that marriage affords straight couples – be it health benefits, medical decisions, adoptions, etc.
Yet the importance of what’s at stake seems to be lost on the justices. Last month Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told an audience in Minnesota the timing of any action by the Supreme Court would depend on the rulings of lower courts. She said if they continued to overturn state-imposed bans on gay marriage, there would be “no need for us to rush,” according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Tell that to people like Shane Bitney Crone. He lost his boyfriend of nearly six years in a tragic accident. Because they lived in a state where gay marriage was illegal at the time, Shane couldn’t even attend the funeral for the love of his life (see his story in the powerful video below).
Sadly, that scenario is still a possibility in 20 states. I can only imagine what a gay person living in one of those states must have felt when they saw some of the national headlines Monday. The New York Times website displayed the headline “Supreme Court Delivers Tacit Win to Gay Marriage.” A win for whom? The justices who refuse make a decision either way and somehow still get credit for advancing the cause? It’s time for the Supreme Court to take action and offer to ALL Americans the same rights as people in Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, England / Wales, France, Iceland, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, and Uruguay. It’s time for the United States to join the list.
Photo credit: Benson Kua