As we wait for the United States Supreme Court to bless the vows of gay persons -either in 50 states or in 1 (California), or make some other pronouncement-the rest of the world continues to move with even more speed in its evolution on marriage. And lest we in the US feel left behind, several of our States have evolved more quickly than expected last Fall.
The magic numbers, at this moment as things have changed more than expected of late, are 15 and 13. On the world’s stage, the fifteen nations which now have full marriage equality are: the Netherlands, which began the drive 12 years ago, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Republic of South Africa, Canada, Argentina, France, Uruguay, New Zealand and, in mid May, Brazil. And, the progress is not complete as the United Kingdom is likely to make the list 16 before the summer progresses too far. Additionally, to these 15 or 16, 2 of Mexico’s States now have full marriage equality (the D.F.—Mexico City, and Quintana Roo, and the legislatures in 3 more are considering same-in Sonora, Tabasco and Colina). Legislation is also pending in Vietnam, Taiwan and Nepal for full marriage equality.
With the recent legislative progress in Argentina, France, Uruguay and New Zealand and with the Supreme Court in Brazil, there is now marriage equality for Lesbian and Gay persons on all inhabited continents except Asia. But, despite the legal success, there is still lingering animus in many countries and a widening of discrimination against gay persons in places such as Russia and throughout the African Continent. In fact, Russia, Nigeria, Tanzania and Senegal have all recently strengthened penalties for gay sexuality let alone marriage. And, even in France, there continues to be tumult politically where the Center Right has continued to politically proselytize against marriage despite the law and marriages happening. There even was a suicide in Notre Dame Cathedral a couple of weeks ago where a zealot took his life by gunshot near the altar to protest against gay marriage.
Lest the US be left behind, even before the Supreme Court states its decision in the Proposition 8 case (which it must do by June 27), several States have moved forward and provided for marriage on an equal level civilly. Since the turn of the year, Delaware, Minnesota, Rhode Island have made it a “lucky 13” of States (including the District of Columbia which should be a State). They joined Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maine, New York, Iowa, Maryland, Washington and the District of Columbia. And, Illinois is about to make 14.
But what about California and the right to marry federally? That remains within the purview of the US Supreme Court. So, what will the Court do?
No one can say. Last year, at this time, conventional wisdom was nearly certain that Obamacare was “dead on arrival” to the court. This was divined by all the wise pundits from the media who watched the proceedings of the Court when they heard the Affordable Care Act challenge. Unfortunately, the media pundits haven’t been in a courtroom for a long time. What a good lawyer knows is that (a) one cannot truly predict where the Court is going in terms of a ruling and trying to read the tea leaves is going to lead to nothing but frustration and (b) when the Court asks a side tough questions, Justices are often in favor of the side that is being interrogated in depth. The Justices don’t want to make a false step so they often ask the side they favor (without tipping their hand) more and harder questions since they are trying to make the best record so as to uphold that side’s position. Like in Obamacare, where the Justices gave the Solicitor General who favored the Act a much harder time, the Justices in the Prop 8 case gave the proponents of marriage equality the harder time.
Does this mean that we should be stocking up on champagne bottles to celebrate a rash of Lesbian and Gay Marriages from Mississippi to Idaho? Maybe but that is the best one can guess. The reality is that the Justices can easily duck the issue and find simply that the discrimination in California cannot stand and thereby eradicate Proposition 8 and thus permanently allow marriage equality in California but leave alone the laws elsewhere. A good bet would be that they would do just that. But, a betting person would also not have bet that since the decision, marriage would be equalized in Maryland, Washington, Maine, Delaware, Minnesota and Rhode Island, and be on the precipice in Illinois—all without the institution of marriage falling apart. Likewise, it would have been hard to predict that marriage would be equalized in the continents of Oceania (New Zealand) and South America (Uruguay and Brazil) and the larger of the Western European nations (France and soon to be UK—and Spain and Portugal established it without much societal problem as well).
So what is going to happen? No one can really predict. But, spring is in the air, and June becomes a bride (and groom)! The US Supreme Court can, and should simply do what the rest of the world is doing and make this the law of the land. Marriage equality is a human right and clearly there is no constitutional way to disallow it or continue to allow a piecemeal application of rights state by state. Yes, there will be some discontent and political fallout (a decision in favor of universal marriage equality might even tip the electorate over to the Republicans in 2014), but right is right and the United States cannot continue to lag behind what should be its leadership position in civil and human rights. We aim to be the beacon of the world; then, we must act on that light and shine equal rights for all. I trust the Supreme Court (despite Bush v. Gore) to do the right thing. But, only time will tell. June has sprung so put that champagne on ice!