Deadline Now: Same-Sex Marriage

Deadline Now: Same-Sex Marriage

Friday, July 19, 2013

Last month, the United States Supreme Court seemed to sanction same sex marriages.

At least in the 13 states that have decided to allow them. But where do things go from here? Jay Kaplan, the ACLU of Michigan's LGBT Legal Project Staff Attorney, and Lee J. Strang, Professor of Law at the University of Toledo, join host Jack Lessenberry to sort out the issues surrounding the two court decisions.

Here are Jack Lessenberry's Final Thoughts for this edition of "Deadline Now:"

Fifty years ago, my guess is that most educated people thought that by the year 2013, man would have landed on Mars.

Nobody, so far as I know, would have predicted that it would be legal for a man to marry a man, or a woman to marry a woman.

Yet today no one I know expects to live to see a Mars mission, while same sex marriage is not only legal in many states, but increasingly socially acceptable. But this shouldn’t really surprise us.

When the current President of the United States was born in 1961, his parents’ interracial marriage would not have been recognized as legal in at least fifteen states. 

A century before that, according to the United States Supreme Court, he wouldn’t even have been recognized as a human being. In the infamous Dred Scott decision, Chief Justice Roger Taney wrote that blacks were “beings of an inferior order … so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect."

Nobody likes to be reminded of that decision today. There are those who say that same sex marriage is different, that it is something expressly forbidden by most, if not all, major religions. 

But those who know their history know that the Bible was used to justify slavery, and that this nation, from its founding, was meant to be a secular, not a religious state. That’s not as simple a distinction as it might appear, however. The nation does recognize morality, and in preserving social institutions that allow it to flourish.

Nobody is seriously suggesting that the court’s ruling would allow people to marry their dogs, or that polygamy -- what the Mormons call plural marriage -- will be accepted anytime soon.

But as the humorist Finley Peter Dunne once said, the Supreme Court does follow the election returns -- in the sense of being affected by changes in society. 

If the court gets it very wrong, as it did in Dred Scott, the Constitution can be amended, though that is a properly difficult task. Our constitution is, to some extent, elastic and changeable.

Which may be the main reason it has endured for two hundred and twenty six years.