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The judges’ stirring support of same-sex couples

In states where bans on SSM have been overturned, judges have taken the opportunity to deliver some poetry along with the legal prose of the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection. Here a sampler.

Wooden gavel
Wooden gavel

Wooden gavel

Writing about same-sex marriage coming to Arkansas last week, I quoted Judge Chris Piazza’s declaration, “It is time to let the beacon of freedom shine brighter on all our brothers and sisters. We will be stronger for it.” In overturning the bans on SSM in other states, other judges have also taken the opportunity to deliver some moral poetry along with the legal prose of the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection. Here a sampler.

Yesterday in Pennsylvania, Judge John E. Jones III:

The issue we resolve today is a divisive one. Some of our citizens are made deeply uncomfortable by the notion of same-sex marriage. However, that same-sex marriage causes discomfort in some does not make its prohibition constitutional. Nor can past tradition trump the bedrock constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection. Were that not so, ours would still be a racially segregated nation according to the now rightfully discarded doctrine of “separate but equal.” (See Brown v. Board Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), overruling Plessy v, Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896). In the sixty years since Brown was decided, “separate” has thankfully faded into history, and only “equal” remains. Similarly, in future generations the label same-sex marriage will be abandoned, to be replaced simply by marriage.

We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.

In Oregon on Monday:, Judge Michael J. McShane:

Generations of Americans, my own included, were raised in a world in which homosexuality was believed to be a moral perversion, a mental disorder, or a mortanl sin. I remember that one of the more popular playground games of my childhood was called “smear the queer”…Even today I am reminded of the legacy that we have bequeathed today’s generation when my son looks dismissively at the seater I bought him for Christmas and, with a roll of his eyes, say “dad…that is so gay.”

…Where will this all lead? I know that many suggest we are going down a slippery slope that will have no moral boundaries. To those who truly harbor such fears, I can only say this: Let us look less to the sky to see what might fall; rather, let us look to each other…and rise.

In Michigan on March 21, Judge Bernard A. Friedman:

In attempting to define this case as a challenge to “the will of the people,” Tr. 2/25/14 p. 40, state defendants lost sight of what this case is truly about: people. No court record of this proceeding could ever fully convey the personal sacrifice of these two plaintiffs who seek to ensure that the state may no longer impair the rights of their children and the thousands of others now being raised by same-sex couples. It is the Court’s fervent hope that these children will grow up “to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives.” Windsor, 133 S. Ct. at 2694. Today’s decision is a step in that direction, and affirms the enduring principle that regardless of whoever finds favor in the eyes of the most recent majority, the guarantee of equal protection must prevail.

In Virginia on February 14, Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen:

Justice has often been forged from fireof indignities and prejudices suffered. Outriumphs that celebrate the freedom of choice are hallowed. We have arrived. We have arrived upon another moment in history when We the People becomes more inclusive, and our freedom more perfect.

In Oklahoma on January 14, Judge Terence C. Kern:

Exclusion of just one class of citizens from receiving a marriage license based upon the perceived “threat” they pose to the marital institution is, at bottom, an arbitrary exclusion based upon the majority’s disapproval of the defined class. It is also insulting to same-sex couples, who are human beings capable of forming loving, committed, enduring relationships.

And in Utah on December 20, Judge Robert J. Shelby:

Rather than protecting or supporting the families of opposite-sex couples, Amendment 3 perpetuates inequality by holding that the families and relationships of same-sex couples are not now, nor ever will be, worthy of recognition. Amendment 3 does not thereby elevate the status of opposite-sex marriage; it merely demeans the dignity of same-sex couples….The Plaintiffs’ desire to publicly declare their vows of commitment and support to each other is a testament to the strength of marriage in society, not a sign that, by opening its doors to all individuals, it is in danger of collapse.