Who Has Standing on Gay Marriage?
If the Supreme Court punts on making a landmark decision on Prop 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act it will likely be because the Justices decide the plaintiffs lack standing. They're right.
The two groups arguing to preserve the anti-gay-marriage measures now before the Court are (1) an anti-gay citizens group in California, and (2) the House Republicans, who are boldly continuing their effort to ensure their party never win another national election.
The Defense of Marriage Act has aged badly. Bill Clinton says he regrets ever signing it. The Obama Administration won't defend it. Even mainstream Republican politicians have decided it's not good politics to try to scare up votes with lurid film clips about the "gay agenda."
History has moved on, and Americans have decided that their gay friends and relatives and neighbors are not some scary alien threat, but people who need and deserve the same rights as everyone else.
Which is why the standing issue is so interesting.
More than just a dodge, "standing" gets to the heart of the gay-marriage issue.
What standing do a bunch of straight conservative citizens or the House Republicans have to argue that gay marriage somehow does them harm?
Back in 1996, not just rabid anti-gay right-wingers, but Democrats from Bill Clinton to Paul Wellstone could state publicly that heterosexual marriage needed to be "defended" against same-sex couples.
That point of view now strikes an overwhelming majority of young people in this country as patently absurd.
It's very obvious that my gay neighbors' marriage poses not threat whatsoever to me or my family, and more and more Americans can see this, as more and more gay couples marry, have children, and become more public and more visible in American communities, congregations, and schools.
Public opinion is clear: straight people have no standing to complain about gay marriage.
The Supreme Court has a clear path to take the easy way out.
Instead of issuing the kind of landmark decision that, in 1967, ended discrimination against interracial couples--overturning miscegenation statutes in 16 states--it can just toss DOMA and Prop 8 back to the lower courts, where they will be overturned without a precedent-setting decision.
This is OK in the short term. But those anti-gay activists who have no legal or moral standing to attack gay families will still have too much power in our country.
Invoking states' rights to set the terms of marriage is no better when it comes to gay people than it was when the issue was race.
What good does it do to be married in one of the nine states that allow gay marriage--ten with California--if your partner falls ill on vacation in another state that doesn't recognize your right to accompany her to her hospital room and make life-and-death decisions?
Businesses recognize the mess that unequal marriage laws create, and are extending equal partner benefits to all their employees, no matter where they work.
That's why the American Family Association is urging boycotts of Google, Microsoft, Citigroup, Apple, Nike, Facebook, and Starbucks, among other U.S. corporations.
Good luck with that.
American Family Association president Tim Wildmon hopes the Supreme Court won't impose a 50-state solution, even as more and more states join the drive for marriage equality.
From his base in Mississippi, Wildmon defended the hallowed principle of states' rights to a reporter for Time Magazine "That's just he way it's going to be," he said. "If you want to be a homosexual married couple, move to a state that accepts it."
Let's see what happens to the economies of the states where all the gay people bail out.
Meanwhile, if the Justices decides that neither the House Republicans nor the Obama Administration have legal standing to bring the federal marriage case before the Supreme Court, two lower court rulings nullifying DOMA will stand. The same outcome is likely in California--the Prop 8 citizens group will have to go home and fume as gay couples are allowed to marry by a federal district court.
If the no-standing outcome is the result of last week's arguments, the Obama Administration will stop enforcing DOMA , federal employees and citizens of nine states plus the District of Columbia and California will gain marriage benefits.
The Court will not have made any sweeping decision, but the drive for marriage equality will continue across the country, and more and more Americans will join the majority who agree: the bigots have no standing to oppose gay marriage, just as they had no standing to get in the way of that horrible threat to society that was the great bugaboo of the last civil rights era: marriage between blacks and whites.
If you liked this article by Ruth Conniff, the political editor of The Progressive, check out her story "Bernie Sanders Takes on 'Too Big To Jail'".
Follow Ruth Conniff @rconniff on Twitter
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