Finally, the issue of universal marriage has come to the Supreme Court so that a national dialogue can at least begin, stripped of religious symbolism and meretricious rhetoric, predicated on this one basic question:
What is the government’s interest, state or federal, in drawing a line of distinction between gay and straight relationships?
It’s a question that I personally have been invested in for as long as I can remember, unarguably way more so than any indefectibly straight, single man who is not a lawyer or has any background in law ever should. I have written about, lobbied on behalf of, and fought for universal marriage more than any other political matter. I have gone so far as to label such willed discrimination as heterosexual apartheid. (I don’t much care for the term of art “gay marriage,” because that automatically sets the tone in a misguided direction. The issue is one of contract law, which I believe, as many do, is a matter protected by the Establishment Clause of the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution, which grants equal protection to citizens. It is a marriage contract, after all, which when recognized, is your token exchange for all the 1600+ benefits bestowed upon you as a married couple from the state and federal governments. Besides, it carries the connotation of “universal suffrage” to it.)
But I don’t care to delve into all that right now, mainly because there isn’t much I can add that you, dear reader, do not already know. So instead I thought to make this scribble a little more fun and interesting by placing bets about how the Court will rule on Proposition 8, the ballot question a majority of Californian voters approved in 2008 that categorically denied recognition of same-sex marriages (but still kept intact civil unions). With the oral arguments occurring coincidentally during the March Madness of college basketball, below you will see my own brackets. All winners will receive one of the following: a new poem dedicated to you, a new scribble of a topic of the winner’s own suggestion, or future swag the likes of t-shirts and lapel pins that read “I Got Scribbled A Bit.”
1 John Roberts
8 Sonia Sotomayor
3 Stephen Breyer
6 Samuel Alito
4 Clarence Thomas
5 Ruth Bader Ginsberg
2 Antonin Scalia
7 Elena Kagan
With the victor set to play either with or against swing vote Anthony Kennedy.
Here’s how the contest will work: there are essentially five outcomes possible from the Court’s ruling on Proposition 8 (see below), so the winner(s) will be he/she/those who predict accurately. OK? Your choice of rulings are as follows:
a) The Court strikes down Prop 8 and declares a “50 state solution,” meaning gay couples everywhere have a constitutional right to marry/ enter a marriage contract;
b) The Court decides that any state that does recognize the legal rights of gay couples and grants them comprehensive coverage of all the bennies that come from marriage while putting those couples in a separate but equal category called a “civil union” or “domestic partnership” (there are six* of them — see below) will be overridden by federal law on the grounds that these separate but supposedly equal categorizations are in fact unconstitutional;
c) The Court shall consider California in and of itself — just as we all do — at the exclusion of national implications, thereby rendering a “California Solution” — dubbed by wags the land over as “California Dreamin'” — since in this case first you had the California Supreme Court defending universal marriage, but then it was voted down by referendum by the people of California (or at least enough of them);
d) The Court will piss everyone off on a technical/ procedural point and declare that no one has what is called “standing” to have brought such a case to the Supreme Court in the first place (standing roughly meaning a legally protected stake an individual has in a dispute entitling him/her to bring the matter before a court to seek redress) — since for the opponents of Prop 8 both the governor and attorney general of California side with the plantiffs, while for the proponents of Prop 8 it is difficult to conceive what harm would fall upon them should Prop 8 be overturned;
or, last and most definitely least likely,
e) The Court upholds Prop 8 and the majority opinion justices double their security guard status.
So there you have it. One vote per reader, please. Unlike a Chicago election, you are encouraged to vote early but not often.
* The six states that allow/ recognize civil unions are Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, and New Jersey. And then there’s Wisconsin, which like all things having to do with how this state votes, is conflicting and contradictory: we have a state registry of domestic partnerships, passed into law in 2009 by a two-vote majority in the State Assembly and one-vote majority in the State Senate — this after the state decided by popular vote to amend the state constitution to ban “a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals.” Parse that mumbo-jumbo as you like. The upshot is a few not insignificant benefits, such as health care insurance inclusion, being granted family medical leave to care for a sick partner, or inheriting an estate without a will. There are roughly 43 of these perks. What is fascinating to think about however is that, notable as these allowances are, they are fewer in number than what divorced couples can get. Put in another way, a committed, loving, stable gay couple of 30 years receives less than two kids in their twenties who are a failure of marriage by divorcing within a year of getting hitched on a whim in Vegas by an Elvis impersonator.
To round things out, the states that do allow/ recognize universal marriage are Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and Washington. (Iowa!) In addition, the city-state that is Washington, D.C. has universal marriage, as do three Indian tribes: the Coquille in Oregon, the Squamish in Washington, and the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians in Michigan.