There seems to be some question now whether Tuesday’s ruling by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals striking down California’s ban on same-sex marriage will lead to a hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court. Because the 9th circuit made such a narrow ruling that does not decide the whole issue, the high court might not choose to bother with the case, it has been reported.
Meanwhile, the trend has been for more and more jurisdictions to recognize same-sex marriage in the United States and worldwide. It could be that society as a whole will make the decision instead of the courts. Of course societal opinion is often to a large extent what eventually moves courts to change their thinking or to decide on matters that come before it.
UPDATE: And as if to underscore what I said about the trend toward allowing same-sex marriage, after I wrote that it was reported that both houses of the the Washington State legislature have now passed a pro-same-sex marriage bill and it is going to the governor, who supports it. This would be the seventh state to approve same-sex marriage. The vote was 55-45 in the Washington State House, and 28-21 in the Senate. One republican lawmaker who voted in favor indicated she came to support the concept after finding out her own daughter was homosexual (I realize the preferred word these days is “gay”). And that is the way it often goes. That is part of what has changed the thinking in society. Homosexuals have come out of the closet and their families are confronted with the fact that they are their loved ones.
In this post I give some admittedly sketchy background and then offer my opinion on the matter. Most of this was written yesterday not long after I read of the decision that had just been handed down by the appeals court:
UPDATE (Tuesday, 2-7-12):
Earlier I had blogged that the same-sex marriage issue was getting ever closer to the U.S. Supreme Court with a ruling today by a federal court, but maybe not, at least not via the Prop. 8 case. But both sides on the issue continue their efforts. And it would seem that sooner or later the high court will have to decide the matter.
Or, it occurs to me, changing attitudes in society may already be at work and the issue might take care of itself, even without the courts, as more states move to make same-sex marriage legal.
In May of 2008 a majority on the California State Supreme Court held that same-sex marriages were allowed under the state’s constitution. In November of 2008 voters in the state narrowly passed Prop. 8, banning same-sex marriage (52 percent to 48 percent ). The issue has been before the courts ever since and same-sex marriages have been put on hold in the state (I comment on that at the very bottom of the post).
There is an understandable resistance to change in our culture that accepts same-sex marriage and it makes a great political wedge issue too for conservatives who would like to use it as a weapon to fight anything that means change of the status quo.
The reports I have now read indicate that the question of same-sex marriage may not be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court even though a U.S. appellate court panel today ruled that California’s Prop. 8 ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. The ruling was narrow and basically said once given the rights, they cannot be taken away, at least that is what I seem to be reading. So in states and locales where it was not legal, things would remain the same. Meanwhile, a legal stay remains in effect preventing same-sex marriages in California from resuming while the issue is still in the appeals process. It could go on to a further appeals panel or directly on to the Supreme Court, although some expect now it may not go to the high court, at least not via the present case.
WHAT I REALLY WANTED TO SAY, MINUS THE BACKGROUND:
But what this is all about really is two things: politics (left vs. right) and a resistance to culture change, and by saying the latter I am not at all implying that such resistance is wrong. To the contrary, I personally have a problem with the idea that homosexuality is to be simply treated as a normal part of life and should never be portrayed as abnormal.
By the same token it seems to me the clear evidence is that people are born homosexual or at least with homosexual tendencies and that they should not be denied rights given to any other group.
So there you have it, a dichotomy of sorts.
I personally would think that homosexual couples should be afforded the same rights as straight married couples, but only by way of official domestic partnerships or civil unions. But the problem, I guess, is that for some reason that has not always seemed to work. The domestic partnerships don’t always have the same status of marriage and may not be recognized universally among the states in the nation. In addition, homosexuals feel they are unconstitutionally discriminated against by not being allowed to be married or to be called “married” in the same sense as heterosexual couples.
Some have suggested that marriage ought to be restricted to a religious ceremony where appropriate, or for those who want a religious ceremony and sanction, but that the actual contract that gives each partner legal rights and protections ought to be a civil function and not called marriage, but something like civil union. But marriage, the term and practice, and so on, has a long history and is part of our culture and it would seem difficult to impossible to simply change it now.
I do also have a problem with government-enforced cultural change. I’m primarily talking about the school text books I hear so much about — actually have never seen one — that portray homosexuality as normal, when in fact it is abnormal, a fact of life in a certain percentage of the population, and more accepted these days by society as a whole, but a deviation from cultural and biological norms.
It’s a difficult subject. If a parent has a child and if that child is homosexual, the parent by all that is human and decent has no choice but to accept such and love the child as he or she would love a child who is not homosexual. But by the same token it would seem a parent should not be forced by public education to subject his or her straight children to the idea that homosexual practices are just a normal thing.
Like I said, it is a difficult subject to address — that is , without, on the one hand, sounding far-out liberal and throwing out all cultural values, and on the other hand, sounding as if one is some kind of bigot.
As a society I wished we, or some of us, would not spend so much time trying to control the lifestyles of others and at the same time I wished the government would stay out of the cultural brainwashing business.
What I meant about politics being in this is that conservatives will fight anything that smacks of liberalism simply to discredit the movement on all issues, to include taxes, government regulation on business and the environment and so on.
Another aspect of the legal battle was a challenge to the original appeals court ruling striking down Prop. 8 on the grounds that the justice who ruled on the decision was biased in that he was homosexual himself and did not reveal that until after his ruling. The appeals panel held that there was no conflict there. I’m having a hard time figuring out what they would consider to be a conflict. And I am really fairly neutral on all this nonetheless.
AND ONE MORE THING:
I find it curious that same-sex marriages already in existence are recognized, in California at least, at the same time the justice system in trying to decide whether it is okay for homosexuals to marry. It would seem the decision has already been made.