Gay Marriage and the Constitution

Why Ted Olson and I are working to overturn California's Proposition 8.


July 20, 2009
ARTICLE SOURCE Wall Street Journal
By DAVID BOIES

When I got married in California in 1959 there were almost 20 states where marriage was limited to two people of different sexes and the same race. Eight years later the Supreme Court unanimously declared state bans on interracial marriage unconstitutional.
Recently, Ted Olson and I brought a lawsuit asking the courts to now declare unconstitutional California's Proposition 8 limitation of marriage to people of the opposite sex. We acted together because of our mutual commitment to the importance of this cause, and to emphasize that this is not a Republican or Democratic issue, not a liberal or conservative issue, but an issue of enforcing our Constitution's guarantee of equal protection and due process to all citizens.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the right to marry the person you love is so fundamental that states cannot abridge it. In 1978 the Court (8 to 1, Zablocki v. Redhail) overturned as unconstitutional a Wisconsin law preventing child-support scofflaws from getting married. The Court emphasized, "decisions of this Court confirm that the right to marry is of fundamental importance for all individuals." In 1987 the Supreme Court unanimously struck down as unconstitutional a Missouri law preventing imprisoned felons from marrying.

There were legitimate state policies that supported the Wisconsin and Missouri restrictions held unconstitutional. By contrast, there is no legitimate state policy underlying Proposition 8. The occasional suggestion that marriages between people of different sexes may somehow be threatened by marriages of people of the same sex does not withstand discussion. It is difficult to the point of impossibility to envision two love-struck heterosexuals contemplating marriage to decide against it because gays and lesbians also have the right to marry; it is equally hard to envision a couple whose marriage is troubled basing the decision of whether to divorce on whether their gay neighbors are married or living in a domestic partnership. And even if depriving lesbians of the right to marry each other could force them into marrying someone they do not love but who happens to be of the opposite sex, it is impossible to see how that could be thought to be as likely to lead to a stable, loving relationship as a marriage to the person they do love
.
Moreover, there is no longer any credible contention that depriving gays and lesbians of basic rights will cause them to change their sexual orientation. Even if there was, the attempt would be constitutionally defective. But, in fact, the sexual orientation of gays and lesbians is as much a God-given characteristic as the color of their skin or the sexual orientation of their straight brothers and sisters. It is also a condition that, like race, has historically been subject to abusive and often violent discrimination. It is precisely where a minority's basic human rights are abridged that our Constitution's promise of due process and equal protection is most vital.

Countries as Catholic as Spain, as different as Sweden and South Africa, and as near as Canada have embraced gay and lesbian marriage without any noticeable effect -- except the increase in human happiness and social stability that comes from permitting people to marry for love. Several states -- including Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont -- have individually repealed their bans on same-sex marriage as inconsistent with a decent respect for human rights and a rational view of the communal value of marriage for all individuals. But basic constitutional rights cannot depend on the willingness of the electorate in any given state to end discrimination. If we were prepared to consign minority rights to a ma

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