Despite other horrible rulings like Citizens United, the Supreme Court has just given us a pretty clear message that it intends to end the battle over gay marriage during this term. The ruling, which is expected this summer, would put an end to the remaining state laws which prohibit same-sex couples from getting married. Much like the battle over segregation and interracial marriage, this fight is coming down to many of the reddest states being forced by the Supreme Court into extending equal rights to all Americans over the objections of religious conservatives.
Mark Joseph Stern over at Slate explains why today’s refusal to put a stay on gay marriages in Alabama is so important when it comes to understanding how the Court will rule this summer:
The justices will rule on the constitutionality of state-level marriage bans this summer, so they might as well put any federal court rulings on hold until they’ve had a chance to say the last word. After all, if the court ultimately ruled against marriage equality, the Alabama district court’s order would be effectively reversed, and those gay couples who wed in the coming months would find their unions trapped in legal limbo.
But that is not what the court did here. Instead, seven justices agreed, without comment, that the district court’s ruling could go into effect, allowing thousands of gay couples in Alabama to wed. That is not what a court that planned to rule against marriage equality would do. By permitting these marriage to occur, the justices have effectively tipped their hand, revealing that any lower court’s pro-gay ruling will soon be affirmed by the high court itself. (Source)
Justice Alito and Chief Justice Roberts didn’t join Justice Thomas and Justice Scalia in their dissent, and to me this shows that they’re unwilling to go down as being on the wrong side of history. What’s more, it shows a fracture in the conservative and right-wing alliance which has been opposed to gay marriage. Alito and Roberts represent more mainstream conservatives who have decided that while they may still be opposed to equal rights, it’s a battle that they’re unwilling to fight any longer. On the other hand, Scalia and Thomas represent the “true believers” – the religious right-wing faction that believes that opposition to same-sex marriage is required by the Bible, which trumps the Constitution in their political worldview.
This sets up a further divide between mainstream and fringe conservatives ahead of the 2016 elections. Religious candidates like Jindal, Huckabee and others will want to fight on against marriage equality even though the issue will be decided by then and mainstream conservatives will be desperately trying to persuade primary voters to look past a ruling that will be chafing many red state voters for decades to come. This is a significant problem that Republicans face going forward because I don’t see a candidate who doesn’t rail against gay marriage doing very well in the red state primaries for at least another couple of election cycles. Opposition to gay rights has been a central strategy of the Republican Party for quite some, especially down here in Louisiana, Mississippi, etc. There are few better examples of this than when Bobby Jindal rushed to support Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson after he made controversial remarks that have led to the demise of their TV show’s ratings.
The Supreme Court has just telegraphed their intentions pretty clearly and while religious conservatives should prepare to move on, many of them won’t. After all, some are still unable to get over the legalization of interracial marriage and that was over 50 years ago.
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