Written by Alex Ellis
When the Supreme Court recently granted Utah a stay on recognizing same-sex marriages performed in the state in December and an appeal for their lawsuit, many LGBT activists saw this as a defeat. If the Supreme Court isn’t willing to stand up for equal rights, then who is?
Although the situation may seem bleak as of right now, equal rights activists need not despair. Before seeing this as a defeat, activists should first remember that the reason this case reached the Supreme Court is because Amendment 3 has been struck down
in every one of the lower courts it was brought to. This sets a hopeful precedent for those fighting for justice and equality. In addition, although the Supreme Court has recently made some terrible decisions, such as the ruling on Citizens United
and the Hobby Lobby case
, their rulings concerning same-sex marriage these past couple of years have been admirable. Not only did they strike down a key part of DOMA, requiring same-sex marriages to be recognized federally, but by refusing to hear a case from California, they indirectly ruled that the state’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage, is unconstitutional.
Although it seems likely that the justices will come out in favor of equality if the case comes to them, they have so far seemed reluctant to do so. While refusing to hear the case concerning Proposition 8 may have enabled same-sex marriage to be legal in California, it also made the justices unable to make a ruling and settle all the legal battles in each state that is fighting equality at once. It is likely that because same-sex marriage is such a controversial issue, the judges wish to act with caution and not directly intervene. In 1954, the justices had similar concerns during the case of Brown v Board of Education, but as we all know they came out in favor of equality in that landmark case. Just as the “separate but equal” sentiment of the time was proven to not be so equal, the “separate but equal” status concerning same-sex couples compared to straight couples is just as morally wrong.
When religious arguments are shown to be moot by the rule of separation of church and state, conservative defendants of Amendment 3 usually turn to Constitutional reasons for why the state should be able to deprive its citizens of liberty, mostly citing the 10th Amendment of the Bill of Rights. However, for as much as they claim to love the constitution, they are quick to forget that the founding document of our country is not only limited to the first ten amendments. They forget about the 14th Amendment
, which says that each citizen must be treated equally under the law. When they grumble about “activist federal judges” who have no authority to overturn state law, they forget about Article 6 Clause 2
, otherwise known as the Supremacy Clause, which dictates that federal law supersedes all state and local law and gives federal courts the sole power to overturn any law.
If Utah truly wanted marriage to be decided state-by-state, they would have accepted their defeat when Amendment 3 was first struck down. Instead, by pursuing the long and expensive process of appeal after appeal, they are heading down a road which will lead to a conclusion they may not like. When the appeals court once again rules against the state, and the state leadership takes the case to the highest court of the land, Gov. Herbert and Attorney General Sean Reyes will be the ironic champions of same-sex marriage across the country.
Thus, activists dismayed by the court’s decision should instead rejoice; while it may be a temporary setback for marriage equality in Utah, it may possibly be the fast-track to equality for the entire United States.