Monday, January 13, 2014

Utah's Strange Arguments against Gay Marriage

Utah has been using some strange arguments in its court fight against a right for gay people to marry. The state started with the notion that children are just better off in families with a mother and a father, but the trial judge was not impressed:
Judge Shelby rejected the argument as illogical and counterproductive. Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage, he wrote, “does not make it any more likely that children will be raised by opposite-sex couples.”
So the state shifted their argument slightly when they appealed to he Supreme Court:
Drawing on Supreme Court decisions endorsing the value of diversity in deciding who may attend public universities, the state now said it was pursuing “gender diversity” in marriages. “Society has long recognized that diversity in education brings a host of benefits to students,” the brief said. “If that is true in education, why not in parenting?”
Whatever the Supreme Court says about this argument this year, it will go down in history as a bizarre joke.

I am ambivalent about this whole legal process. I am absolutely for gay marriage, but I think it is generally a bad idea for important legal changes to be imposed by the courts rather than enacted in legislatures. And yet I don't see on what basis any court can reject these suits. The arguments raised against gay marriage are transparent rationalizations of prejudice, and our legal system is not supposed to accept such rationalizations. It is an old legal principle that if the state wants to discriminate between different classes of people, it must offer a "compelling" reason for doing so, and I have never seen a compelling reason why the state needs to stop gay people from marrying each other. As even Bill O'Reilly admitted,
The compelling argument is on the side of homosexuals. That is where the compelling argument is. We’re Americans, we just want to be treated like everybody else. That’s a compelling argument, and to deny that you’ve got to have a very strong argument on the other side. And the other side hasn’t been able to do anything but thump the Bible.
Exactly. Given this, I just don't see how the court can avoid recognizing such a right, no matter how much they want not to or how much political trouble it might make.

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