Friday, June 26, 2015

The Fight For Love Is Not Over

Today marks a historic day for LGBT rights in this country. The highest court in the land just smacked down gay marriage bans throughout the U.S., and it's a cause for celebration. But all that was decided today is what the law says about who can marry. It doesn't change the beliefs of millions of Americans who still think marriage is reserved for heterosexuals.

As Roberts writes in his dissent:

"Supporters of same-sex marriage have achieved considerable success persuading their fellow citizens—through the democratic process—to adopt their view.   That ends today.   Five lawyers have closed the debate and enacted their own vision of marriage as a matter of constitutional law.  Stealing this issue from the people will for many cast a cloud over same-sex marriage, making a dramatic social change that much more difficult to accept."

Roberts acknowledges the rising support for same-sex marriage, but argues that by taking the decision out of the hands of the electorate, proponents of same-sex marriage have essentially shot themselves in the foot, achieving their goals at the expense of winning over the hearts and minds of those opposed. To him, votes, not court decisions, should decide the most debated issues of the day.

Of course, if that reasoning always held sway, you'd still have states banning interracial marriage.

Still, it's an important argument to ponder. Just because the right to marry has been won, does that mean the fight is over? Or has today's decision hardened the foes of equality?

One need only look at the civil rights battle fought by African-Americans. Court decisions removed the shields racists hid behind when they segregated and disenfranchised people based on skin color. But the courts couldn't erase the hate, or oust the institutionalized racism that has remained engrained throughout society. Heck, it took until this week for people to even seriously consider removing the Confederate flag from state buildings.  We're 152 years past slavery, and it hasn't been enough time to heal all the wounds.

Today #LoveWins. But as Roberts reminds us, it wasn't won where it should have been. Gutless politicians passed the buck, on both sides of the debate. People in parts of this country can still garner enough votes to gain control over other people's bodies and love lives. Instead of this decision coming from the top, or coming from the masses, it came in sideways. Law seeks to make an immediate impact, but real societal change comes slowly.

The fight against discrimination isn't over. There are many more hearts and minds to be won.

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