The Waiting Game
The SCOTUS contemplates marriage equality, but should they?
By Brandon Watson, 1:28PM, Tue. Mar. 26
First, an admission. From the time I was a little boy, I fantasized about getting married. Back then, it was all cupcakes and pretty flowers – child's thoughts on what love meant. But growing up queer in small town Texas, the promise of love eventually soured. Guilt and self-loathing popped the bubbles of romance.
I thought I would never find someone to love me, much less have that love recognized by family, church, and state. So today, with the Supreme Court considering whether I can fully join society; I'm a little pissed.
True, this morning's arguments on the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8 offered little surprise. Justice Antonin Scalia mentioned scientific disagreement on the "consequences" of same-sex couples raising children. Justice Anthony Kennedy reminded the court that many children are already living in same-sex homes. Doubts were raised by Kennedy and Justice Sonia Sotomayor on whether the group of private citizens looking to uphold Prop 8 have legal "standing" to argue the case. Many prognosticators are saying that the court will likely either reject the petitioners standing or dismiss the case due top an inability to reach a majority.
Either outcome would allow gay and lesbian Californians to marry their partners, but that's why the anger comes. Of the two marriage equality cases before the Supreme Court, Hollingsworth v. Perry has the most relevance to national marriage equality. Although it's an unlikely outcome, SCOTUS has the opportunity to adopt a nationwide solution – ruling that same-sex couples must have the same access to marriage as opposite-sex ones.
Tomorrow's arguments, United States v. Windsor's challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, has more narrow implications. A favorable verdict would not necessarily challenge state's rights to limit marriage to heterosexual pairings. Although it seems increasingly unlikely that either case will be a defeat for LGBT rights, it seems just as unlikely that the result will be a great leap forward. In Texas, where same-sex marriage is state-constitutionally banned, we might barely feel the tremors from the earthquake.
And that seems fundamentally unfair – in the most basic, schoolyard sense. It is difficult not to grow red-faced when strangers passively debate my fate, as if my humanity was no more consequential than which diet soda to purchase. It is difficult to have Scalia weigh in on my rights when his bias is so naked. I even bristle when the liberal justices mull the topic. For them it is a matter of law; for us it is a matter of heart.
I try to remind myself that progress takes time. As a teenager, I could not imagine that same-sex marriage would be legal in any state, much less have the support of the majority of Americans. I marvel at how quickly it took us to get from there to here. But it seems cruel to keep us on pins and needles. LGBT Americans have endured the criminality of our intimate acts, ostracization from our families, marginalization from our communities, and condemnation from our churches. Even with increased acceptance, we still watch our backs.
But still we wait. We wait worrying about whether partners can stay in the country. We wait worrying about whether we will be able to visit our families on their death beds. We pin our hope on nine people in black robes, on elected officials, and uninformed voters. And regardless of the outcome of today's arguments, we'll keep fighting – celebrating our victories with cupcakes and pretty flowers. Without an ounce of patience, we'll wait. The point is, we shouldn't have to.