Wednesday, June 26, 2013

On the problem of congratulating a friend for being declared human

I'd like to congratulate my friends on today's Supreme Court decisions in the cases of Doma and Prop 8, but somehow it seems inappropriate. What should I say: "Congratulations on having your marriage valued as much as mine." or "Congratulations on narrowly winning recognition of having equivalent human rights to me."

And the decision on Prop 8 was narrow. With only a one vote majority, the Supremes only said was that the people who brought the suit did not have "standing" to bring it. This leaves open the possibility of a different California administration resubmitting the appeal. The Supreme Court has always tried to stay a step or two behind the society at large and this has led to some dreadful decisions like Dred Scott. Still, some of the narrowest decisions have had the greatest consequence. Marbury v. Madison was a narrow decision yet it enshrined the principal of judicial review of laws (a decision I think Justice Scalia would like to overturn). Hopefully some future Court will broaden their decision to say that no minority group may be discriminated against for any reason by a prejudiced majority.

The long-term arc of history is toward greater justice, equality and tolerance. There will always be individuals and groups who resist that arc of history. No amount of reasonable argument will dissuade them. How, for instance, can my marriage be anything but strengthened when it is recognized that everyone has the right to marry? A fuller recognition of rights will have to wait for our children's generation. They have grown up with the knowledge that who you love is less important than who you are as a person. Justice Scalia's generation, the generation that grew up before the Civil Rights movement, will have to pass from power before this can take place.

So in the meantime, to all my LGBT friends, congratulations on finally being granted some of the civil rights you should have had all along. May you see the greater fulfillment of the arc of history.