It’s February, and we can’t stop thinking about love. Not the love of hallmark cards and chocolate hearts. The love that moves mountains, the love that changes the world. It’s this love that Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of when he prophesied that “unarmed truth and unconditional love” would have the final word. It’s this kind of love I think of when I contemplate the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to hear not one, but two landmark gay marriage cases later this year, United States v. Windsor, challenging the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), that shameful law that restricts marriage to the union between one man and one woman, (thereby denying gay couples who choose to marry the equal protection of the laws), and Hollingsworth v. Perry, aimed at overthrowing, for once and for all, California’s Proposition 8, the 2008 voter initiative that amended the California constitution in response to the California Supreme Court’s decision in In re Marriage Cases to strike down California state statutes prohibiting gay marriage on grounds that they violated the California Constitution.
Hollingsworth v. Perry, which would restore marriage equality in the state of California was decided by the California Supreme Court on narrow grounds, which means the U.S. Supreme Court has the option of similarly deciding on narrow grounds (a decision that would limit it’s decision to California couples only) or of deciding the case on broader federal Constitutional grounds, thereby making marriage equality the law of the land, thanks to a little doctrine known as The Supremacy Clause, which states that,
“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance
thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United
States, shall be the supreme law of the land.”
With Hollingsworth v. Perry, the Constitutional question is whether the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment applies to married gay and lesbian couples. If you give language its ordinary meaning, it’s clear that it does. The 14th Amendment says, simply, that
“No State shall make or enforce any law which shall…deny to any person…the equal
protection of the laws.”
Of course, a tortured argument can be made that gay and lesbian citizens are permitted to marry like everyone else — as long as they marry someone of the opposite sex. In fact, one of my friends, an ivy league-educated lawyer like me, made a similar argument three years ago, when the Hollingsworth v. Perry case was making its first appearance on the California legal stage. She argued that, since marriage is defined as a union between one man and one woman (an argument that requires you to first ignore the un-Constitionality of that), it is not a violation of the Equal Protection clause to prohibit a man and a man or a woman and a woman from marrying. I’ll argue now, as I argued then: “poppycock!” Let’s not forget, after all, that once upon a time, way back in the dark ages, marriage was defined as a union between one man and one woman of the same race. But we managed to get our heads together around that, and wisdom and common sense one out. The year was 1967. The Supreme Court of the United States, in its landmark Civil Rights case, Loving v. Virginia, struck down laws prohibiting interracial marriage wherever they were found throughout the land. Chief Justice Earl Warren, writing for a unanimous court, wrote:
“Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival…. To deny
this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes,
classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is
surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment
requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. Under our
Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and
cannot be infringed by the State.”
“There is patently no legitimate overriding purpose independent of invidious racial discrimination which
justifies this classification. The fact that Virginia prohibits only interracial marriages involving white persons
demonstrates that the racial classifications must stand on their own justification, as measures designed to
maintain White Supremacy.”
The logic of Loving v. Virginia must certainly be extended to same-sex marriage now. As President Obama said in his Second Inaugural Address, a speech distinguished by the throughline the President drew “through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall,” three seminal moments in the struggles for gender equality, racial equality and gay and lesbian rights, “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal, as well.” Or, in Twitter-speak, #MarriageEquality #LetLoveRule. Furthermore, any argument that the rights of gay and lesbian couples to marry, and enjoy the full rights and privilege of marriage afforded under U.S. law, may be restricted on grounds that marriage between couples of the same sex violates the will of God must be discarded for the specious argument it is. On this matter, the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is clear: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Or, in plain English, you’re free to believe in a God that opposes gay marriage, but you cannot impose that belief on me.
What you can impose on me, is love, love and more love, which is why, this month at Revel In It Mag, we’ll be taking advantage of every opportunity we can find to explore love in all its forms, from self-love, which we’ll tackle in obvious and un-obvious ways; to love of others — everything from eros (romantic love) to agape (love for humankind — or, as I like to call it, in a nod to that other word a-gape, wide-open love); to our love of the many objects and experiences that beautify our lives and world.
Happy February! We send you our love.
PHOTOGRAPHY via Pinterest
PAULA PURYEAR is a Lawyer, Film & Television writer, HuffPoster and Founder of Revel In It Mag.