I guess it was too much to hope that the ruling would be handed down today instead of Thursday. I mean, yeah, it's a Saturday, but damn. Can you imagine the ruling coming in on the 44th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots?
Back in 1996, President Bill Clinton was politically vulnerable. Several of the Democratic party faithful and people like me were pissed at him for doing things counter to what the D's stood for, like gutting welfare in the name of "reform," doing far more damage than the R's ever dreamed of doing, and his Don't Ask Don't Tell policy that people somehow thought was an actual policy change. Clinton was up against Bob Dole, and decided to focus on the average American vote that got him in office, knowing those number would be more than those of us with an axe to grind. All he had to do was what Dole couldn't. Dole could only talk about what he would do as President. Clinton could actually get it done.
To that end, Clinton passed two accursed pieces of legislation engineered to appeal to people's biases and fears, things that were making them lean towards voting for the opposition party. The first was the Internet censorship bill that no one expected to survive a First Amendment challenge. It didn't, but enough of Congress voted for it to show voters that they were concerned about this wild frontier where all kinds of negative thoughts that people need to be protected from existed. In other words, they sold out the Constitution, knowing it would be safe but they could grandstand. I felt every last one of them should have been charged with treason, and that includes Clinton, too. Still do.
The second accursed piece of legislation was another exercise in political expediency. Gays were still not generally accepted by the public at large. Yeah, there was more awareness, but it wasn't long ago that gays were just a punchline during the Reagan Administration (Eddie Murphy talked in his stand-up act about how embarrassing it was to be "beat up by a faggot"). Gays were still seen as an aberration instead of as human beings, as the shamefully vocal opposition to eliminating the ban on gays in the military showed. Because most people hadn't learned to understand yet, Clinton ginned up the Defense Of Marriage Act. With it, the federal government was free to withhold over 10,000 government benefits to same-sex spouses. Drunk people who get married at a drive-through chapel in Vegas can get all sorts of benefits. Gays? Nope.
Since then, gay marriage has become the latest civil rights battleground as people who use political conservatism as a shield for their discrimination ("conservative" means "cautious," not "stuck in the pre-1950's") have tried to keep the world from changing. Gay marriages and civil unions started being recognized by states realizing the feds would never do the right thing because it was just too politically risky (once again, it's their jobs to lead the American public, not cling to their phony baloney jobs. Once again, they should be tried with treason).
Since 1996, people have struggled to get DOMA thrown out on, basically, grounds of absurdity. As I said, people who get drunk and wake up married in Vegas had more rights than gay people who thought the decision through very carefully and decided to get married anyway. The biggest beef was spousal rights, and that's because it had the biggest, most immediate impact on people (thankfully, insurers started extending health benefits to same-sex partners. Isn't it sad when corporations show more heart than political leaders?). Stories abounded of gays who were prohibited from being at their dying partner's bedside while their partner's family made the medical decisions. Stories of gays who lost their houses when their spouse died because rights of ownership didn't automatically transfer to the survivor.
And this turned out to be the kink in the armor.
Of all the legal challenges, of all the philosophy, of everything that was wrong with DOMA, it was a simple argument about money that caused it to fall. Readers, come and honor a hero among us. The woman pictured here on the right is Edith "Edie" Windsor. The woman on the left is Thea Spyer. They had been lovers for over 40 years (no, I will NOT do like the mainstream press and say they had been "romantic partners" for 40 years. They were LOVERS. Grow a fucking spine). These two Noo Yawkers had wanted to get engaged in 1965. In 2007, in what they thought would be a largely symbolic gesture of their love, they went to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and got hitched (their ceremony was presided by Justice Harvey Brownstone, Canada's first openly gay judge). Simply put, like so many of us, they did something on a lark, having no idea what it was going to wind up accomplishing.
In 2009, New York passed legislation recognizing same sex marriages officially performed in other jurisdictions. In other words, it was no longer symbolic, Windsor and Spyer were legally wed in the eyes of the law. It couldn't have come at a more perfect time. Spyer, unfortunately, died in 2009. Spyer was no dummy -- the woman had cash and knew how to write a will. However, the feds demanded $363,053 in taxes from her inheritor, Windsor. Only the first $3.5 mil is free, anything after that is subject to an inheritance tax. Windsor told them legal spouses don't have to pay an inheritance tax, she has a fully legal document from Canada saying she was a spouse, New York recognizes legal marriages in other jurisdictions, so go fuck yourselves. The feds said, "We'll see you in court." Windsor said, "Count on it."
Windsor found allies in the American Civil Liberties Union and Roberta Kaplan. Kaplan is a partner at the international law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. Kaplan was basically getting another bite at the apple -- she had been part of the team challenging the inability of same-sex couples to be legally married in New York that got shot down in the appeals courts in 2006. In 2011, the Obama Administration issued orders to defend DOMA until it was either repealed by Congress or declared unConstitutional in court. However, it also ordered to not defend the Constitutionality of DOMA, basically inviting Windsor to please, for the love of God, do your worst and accomplish what Congress would never dream of doing. Unfortunately, it wasn't going to be easy. Paul Clement is a former United States Solicitor General under President George HW "Shrub" Bush. He decided to get involved, representing the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, or BLAG (yes, it is actually referred to by an acronym that sounds like someone throwing up. How apropos, as we say in the rural communities). The horses were put in the gate, and the race was on.
In June 2012, Judge Barbara S. Jones ruled in favor of Windsor and told the federal government to cough up the dough. But everybody and their brother knew this wasn't over -- this would be appealed repeated by whichever side lost until it went to the Supreme Court and a decision was made there. Clement did the honors, and it was off to the appeals court to continue the farce.
Time was of the essence -- Windsor is up there in age, after all. In September, the appeal was heard by Chief Justice Dennis Jacobs and Justices Chester J. Straub and Christopher F. Droney. Their ruling? Windsor's right, BLAG is wrong, so knock it the fuck off and do right by her. As expected, this resulted in another appeal.
The Supremes agreed to hear the case, along with the final appeal of California's Proposition 8 (for those who came in late -- Prop 8 changed California's state constitution to outlaw gay marriage, stripping thousands of people of their marriage rights without so much as a by-your-leave. At this stage, the groups originally fighting to keep Prop 8 alive had given up and another group of discriminatory assholes was working the appeals courts). This scared people like me -- generally, if the Supremes agree to hear a case, you have a better than even chance that they are going to reverse the previous decision. Otherwise, they would simply refuse to hear it and let the lower ruling stand (see also: Casey Martin, software patents, Obamacare). There was a very real chance that the Supes were going to knock the wheels off of this.
And now, this past Thursday, the Supremes went against type. They declared DOMA unConstitutional. Miracles do happen.
(Side note: they also tossed Prop 8, on the grounds that the group representing it had no right to get involved, something people like me have been saying since this whole mess started, so get the fuck out of Dodge. This needed to be ruled on, since it was inviting anyone who felt they had standing regardless of whether or not they actually did to stick their noses where they didn't belong. Bright side? All those marriages in California are now restored.)
I do have one complaint about the Supes' ruling, and it's a big one -- they simply ruled that gay marriage was a state's rights issue and not a fundamental, human, and inalienable right. Way to puss out where it counts. Lots of people do the state's rights thing instead of just saying 1% of the population should be able to enjoy the same rights as the other 99% (I'm looking at YOU, Ron Paul. Some Libertarian you are). Mission accomplished, but not mission completed.
Some of you are probably thinking I'm about to take yet another shot at Rand Paul. All I'll say is, Wait for iiiiiiiiiiiiit....
I've written before about how gay marriage is a litmus test -- your reaction to it shows people just how stupid and discriminatory you are. For example, Nevada amended its state constitution to not recognize gay marriages. Whores? Gambling? The mob? That's fine! Gay marriage? Not in this state, goddammit! The trend continues with Dan Cathy. Cathy is the owner of the Chick-fil-A fast food chain based out of Atlanta, GA. Cathy has given over $3.2 mil to groups trying to define marriage as between one man and one woman. Cathy realized it was turning his restaurants into social battlegrounds and announced he wouldn't give money to such groups anymore, as if that would convince us he'd had an epiphany. Well, a mouth that big can't stay closed for long. Cathy tweeted, "Sad day for our nation; founding fathers would be ashamed of our gen. to abandon wisdom of the ages re: cornerstone of strong societies." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution screencapped that shit for GRATE JUSTICE, knowing Cathy would eventually take it down. He did. Nice try, but we know. We all know.
(By the way: I did try Chick-fil-A at the urging of a friend who had a cousin who started working there and also thought it would be funny to have a Christian like me hanging out in one of the restaurants. Dude, your food is no big deal. If you didn't package yourself to an audience that votes with its wallets, you'd never survive.)
...let's see...what am I forgetting? Oh yes, Rand Paul! This is the same asshole who, last year, told the crowd in a speech at an event sponsored by the Iowa Faith And Freedom Coalition that Obama's stance on same-sex marriage "couldn't get any gayer." Put on the strongest codpiece you've got, because here comes the boot. Last Wednesday, when everyone was expecting the ruling to come down, Randroid actually turned up on fascist conservative Glenn Beck's radio show. That right there should prove he doesn't belong in America, let alone Congress. Beck suggested that, should the Supremes strike down DOMA, would there be other consequences like polygamy (note: this is actually legal for gays, as certain states will only recognize marriages performed by their state authorities, so yes, it is possible for gays to legally be polygamists. You social conservatives are your own worst enemies, you know that?). Randroid said, "It is difficult, because if we have no laws on this, people will take it to one extension further -- does it have to be humans?" Lest you think I'm just being an asshole (which I totally am, but that's beside the point), here's the exchange --
Congratulations, Randroid supporters. Your hero that you claim supports your civil liberties he has just stated that laws limiting peoples rights are necessary because you can't be trusted. Nice spokesman for your Libertarian movement.
Randroid is a politician, and his office went into spin control mode. They claim Paul was making a joke. This is spokeswoman Moira Bagley -- "Sarcasm sometimes doesn't translate adequately from radio conversation. Sen. Paul did not suggest that striking down DOMA could lead to unusual marriage arrangements. What he was discussing was that having the state recognize marraige without definition could lead to marriages with no basis in reality." You mean like wai-fus? Anyway, Randroid is now pussing out like his dad and saying it's a state's rights issue. Which, one more time for the folks in the audience, IT IS NOT, IT IS A HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUE, GODDAMMIT!!! "Like I said, I don't think it will be with multiple humans, and I think it will be human and human. And so I didn't mean that to mean anything other than that I think the government will still probably be involved in defining marriage to a certain aspect. I don't think we're going on towards polygamy or things beyond that." Spin spin sugar.
So, on Thursday, Windsor was overwhelmed, going from someone fighting a personal battle to scoring a victory for all Americans and receiving the thanks of grateful people like myself. On Friday, Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, half of the couples suing to throw out Prop 8 in California (the other couple was Jeff Katami and Paul Zarrillo), wed at Los Angeles City Hall in a ceremony presided over by Kamala Harris, the State's attorney.
We still have a long way to go to make sure all Americans receive the rights promised them by the Constitution.
But we are getting there, closer and closer, every day.