Monday, October 6, 2014

EXTRA: Avoiding the inevitable?

Let’s hear it for the Supreme Court of the United States, which managed to figure out a way to avoid taking an action concerning marriage that I suspect a slim majority of the court wants to avoid.

At stake is the issue of whether marriage (with all its legal benefits for couples) ought to be a legitimate option for those couples of the same gender.

ACROSS THE NATION, either state Legislatures are legitimizing the idea of gay couples being married, or their courts are inclined to rule to strike down the laws that ban them.

But it has created a patchwork across the United States where couples would find themselves married in some places, and illegitimate in others. In the latter category, there seems to be a competition as to which state can be the absolute last to have to accept gay marriage as legitimate.

Which is why it was thought that the nation’s Supreme Court was going to have to consider the issue so as to create a uniformity across the United States. We’ve all read way too many stories predicting that this would be the key issue of the Supreme Court’s fall term.

Except that the high court on Monday let it be known that it does not plan to hear the appeals filed to the Supreme Court – mostly by states like Indiana, where lower courts have ruled against gay marriage bans but state officials are fighting acceptance for as long as they can.

BY NOT HEARING the appeals, the lower court rulings stand; and must now be enforced.

The Chicago Tribune reported that this boosts the total of states where gay couples can marry from 19 to 30. With the other 20 states still trying to hold out.

What a legal mess we now face – one that the high court probably is going to have to resolve at some point in time. Only now, we don’t know when that will be.

My gut feeling (one that, admittedly, has been wrong in the past) is that the conservative-leaning majority of the current Supreme Court  (President Barack Obama’s appointments have been to replace moderate-to-liberal leaning justices) does not want to go into history as being the court that legitimized the issue.

HOWEVER, THEY ALSO can’t figure out how to avoid doing so if they take up the issue. There have been just too many courts of diverse opinions across the country that came to the conclusion that the old bans on gay marriage just don’t stand up under the law.

I’m also sure they have a sense how a ruling striking down the gay marriage efforts of the past decade would wind up going into legal history alongside past rulings like Dred Scott or Plessy vs. Ferguson – the ones that said (respectively) that slaves had no legal rights and that segregation was not an unconstitutional concept.

So this incarnation of a Supreme Court chose to do nothing!

It may be good in that all those gay couples from places like Gary and Munster in Indiana don’t have to rush across the state line to Illinois – where our Legislature and governor enacted the change into law – to get married.

BUT IT MAINTAINS the idea for now that there are certain places where people shouldn’t go, and that there is some legal legitimacy to that hostility.

That is a division that just can’t stand.

And my praise will go to the future version of the Supreme Court that has the nerve to accept the case, rather than kick it down the road a ways.


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