US Supreme Court decisions this week on same-sex marriage didn't settle the issue. But some prominent conservatives say the court set the country on a path to universal legalization of gay marriage.
In knocking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and effectively doing the same to California’s Prop. 8 ban on same-sex marriage, has the US Supreme Court made it inevitable that gay marriage one day will be legal nationwide?
Read literally, the two decisions don’t go that far. But many analysts and legal experts – prominent conservatives among them – believe that to be true, including Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote an angry rebuttal to the 5-4 majority’s decision on DOMA.
Exactly ten years earlier, Justice Scalia had done the same thing in the high court’s landmark ruling striking down an anti-sodomy law in Texas, which affirmed the right of gay couples to have consensual sex.
Following on from the majority’s ruling in that case, he wrote (again in dissent), “What justification could there possibly be for denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples?”
Scalia meant that as a fearful warning, but it turns out that his prediction can only be seen as correct, as this week’s rulings show. And again this time, the most strident conservative voice on the Supreme Court is forecasting the same kind of result, in this case as it relates to the 35 states that prohibit same-sex marriage in their constitutions or state laws.
“By formally declaring anyone opposed to same-sex marriage an enemy of human decency, the majority arms well every challenger to a state law restricting marriage to its traditional definition,” Scalia wrote in his DOMA dissent.
In his majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy did not use the phrase "enemy of human decency." But he wrote that DOMA “places same-sex couples in an unstable position of being in a second-tier marriage” and “humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples.”
The law’s “principal purpose is to impose inequality,” Justice Kennedy wrote, and he said it had been motivated by “a bare congressional desire to harm a politically unpopular group.”
Such language, writes Dominic Perella, a Washington lawyer who has argued many cases before federal courts, “draws a detailed road map for courts to hold that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right nationwide.”
Beyond invalidating DOMA, Mr. Perella writes in a column for MSNBC, “Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion went much further – it offered passage after passage that reads like it was lifted straight from an opinion holding that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right.”