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Two Days in March (Part 2)

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AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File
AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File

On March 26 and 27 the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on two cases that will have lasting impacts on my marriage.

One is Hollingsworth v. Perry, the case addressing the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8, a 2008 ballot initiative that rescinded the right of same-sex couples to marry in that state. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals voided Prop 8 for the simple reason that the state could not take away from a particular group of people a right that it had previously allowed them (marriage, in this case).

The other case is United States v. Windsor, which was brought in New York and addresses the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). This section defines a marriage as being between a man and a woman for the purpose of federal benefits, like Social Security benefits and a multitude of others. Both a federal appeals court in Boston and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York have struck down Section 3 of DOMA.

I've asked the right-wing conservative coalition and the U.S. government to get out of my bedroom, but it seems that they will not, so it comes as no surprise to me that the three top Republican members of the House of Representatives -- Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy -- filed a brief with the Supreme Court urging it to uphold Section 3 of DOMA, which denies same-sex couples who are legally married in their states access to federal benefits that married heterosexual couples take for granted. The brief identifies them as the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the U.S. House of Representatives, yet neither of the two Democratic members of this group, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, support this position. There is nothing bipartisan about their brief.

These three Republicans claim, "Judicially constitutionalizing the issue of same-sex marriage is unwarranted as a matter of sound social and political policy while the American people are so actively engaged in working through this issue for themselves" (emphasis mine).

To my way of thinking, sound social policy has nothing to do with whether or not my husband Ron and I should have the same rights as any other married couple. Socially, the state in which we live, Vermont, allows marriage equality. As for sound political policy, the winds have shifted in favor of marriage equality, so, to my mind, opposing it is unsound political policy, especially given that President Obama won reelection after coming out in support of marriage equality.

It doesn't surprise me that a group of right-wing supporters of Prop 8 has filed a brief claiming that the definition of marriage should be left to the voters instead of to judges. Thank goodness no one caved to that argument back when Loving v. Virginia was decided in 1967; this group, were they around at the time, would most likely have wanted to deny interracial couples the right to marry, as well. Even Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas' marriage to Virginia Lamp would be illegal today had judges not stepped in to protect interracial couples' right to marry. It is worth noting that "[f]ourteen times since 1888, the United States Supreme Court has stated that marriage is a fundamental right of all individuals," according to the American Foundation for Equal Rights. Ron and I are both individuals to whom this fundamental right should apply.

But more importantly, this group of conservative supporters of Prop 8 claims that the ban on same-sex marriage does not dishonor gays and lesbians. How can denying married gay and lesbian couples the same fundamental right as all other married Americans not dishonor us? It places us in a separate class of citizenship, if we can even call it citizenship.

Here's the reasoning that this group applies to denying us the same rights: "[Prop 8] does not reflect a public judgment that individuals in such relationships are 'inferior' or 'of lesser worth as a class,' but simply the fact that such relationships do not implicate society's interest in responsible procreation in the same way that opposite-sex relationships do" (emphasis mine). Here we have the "sound social policy" argument yet again ("society"), with the added caveat of "responsible procreation." I have two siblings who have married members of the opposite sex, but neither has procreated. So are we to understand that their civil right to marry should be taken away? What about the countless other married couples who either can't conceive or have made a conscious decision not to procreate? Will they be forced to follow us into second-class citizenship and give up the federal protections and benefits they now take for granted?

It should be noted that this group of supporters of Prop 8 claims to have grounds to bring their suit as "agents of the people," because California Gov. Jerry Brown and other state officials refuse to defend Prop 8. We may get lucky should the Supreme Court rule that this group does not have the right to bring the suit, in which case the ruling of the Ninth Circuit of Appeals would stand and same-sex marriage would be legal in California.

But I'm hoping for a better decision during those two days in March. I want the Supreme Court to rule that Ron and I have the constitutional -- that is, fundamental -- right to marriage and to be able to enjoy the same privileges and benefits of marriage that my siblings and friends enjoy. In this way both the government and the right-wing conservatives will be barred from our bedrooms once and for all.

Let me know what you think.