Where were you when SCOTUS ruled that same-sex couples were granted the fundamental right to marry? I had just woken up and turned on CBS This Morning. It was breaking news.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges brought tears to my eyes:
No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eye of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. It is so ordered.
President Obama tweeted: “Love wins.” Facebook and social media erupted in celebration.
under the Due Process Clause.
Clarence Thomas married Virginia Lamp in 1987. They were able to legally marry because SCOTUS in 1967 decided anti-miscegenation laws were unconstitutional in Loving v. Virginia. It was repeatedly cited as precedent for today’s ruling:
The Court has long held marriage is “one of the vital personal rights protected by the Constitution. In Loving v. Virginia, which invalidated bans on interracial unions, a unanimous Court held marriage is “one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men”. . .Over time and in other contexts, the Court has reiterated that the right to marry is fundamental under the Due Process Clause. . .
The Court, like many institutions, has made assumptions defined by the world and time of which it is a part. . .In defining the right to marry these cases have identified essential attributes of that right based on history, tradition, and other constitutional liberties inherent in this intimate bond. [Loving cited]. . .
This analysis compels the conclusion that same-sex couples may exercise the right to marry. . .
A first premise of the Court’s relevant precedents is that the right to personal choice regarding marriage is inherent in the concept of individual autonomy. This abiding connection between marriage and liberty is why Loving invalidated interracial marriage bans under the Due Process Clause.
The Constitution contains no “dignity” Clause, and
even if it did,
the government would be incapable of bestowing dignity.
– Justice Thomas, dissent in Obergefell v. Hodges
In his ranting dissent, Justice Thomas argued the Due Process Clause was irrelevant and eviscerated the right to human dignity denied to slaves:
Human dignity cannot be taken away by the government. Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved. Those held in internment camps did not lose their dignity because government confined them. And those denied government benefits certainly do not lose their dignity because government denies those benefits. The government cannot bestow dignity, and it cannot take it away.
Justice Thomas concluded his lack of empathy and ignorance of history with support for the bigots who oppose gay marriage:
The majority’s. . .rejection of laws preserving the traditional definition of marriage can have no effect on the dignity of the people who voted for them. Its invalidation of those laws can have no effect on the dignity of the people who continue to adhere to the traditional view of marriage.
If SCOTUS in 1967 had adhered to traditional views of marriage, Justice Thomas wouldn’t have been able to legally marry Virginia Lamp in 1987. While I am appalled by Justice Thomas’ arrogant, narcissistic rant, I’m not surprised. He didn’t respect the dignity of Anita Hill when he sexually harassed her at the EEOC, and it was his job to stop corporate rape.
You can read the full text of today’s landmark decision.