Let’s take a moment to flashback to 2015: the year “The Hunger Games” movies ended, the year where you could not avoid the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams and the year same-sex marriage was finally legalized within the United States.
Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) was monumental. By backing gay marriage through the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause, LGBTQ individuals’ marriage rights were constitutionally protected — meaning government could not prohibit a marriage license and legal benefits to same-sex couples.
The people cheered. Men, women and those that lyeth betwixt in queer relationships exchanged their vows. The fight for queer equality had finally broken ground.
Flash-forward to Oct. 5, the beginning of the new Supreme Court term. Conservative Associate Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito came forward in a statement urging that Obergefell must be overturned.
Their justification? The ruling violates, “religious freedom.”
I’d like to posit a not-so revolutionary argument: the dignity of other people matters more than a single religious tenant.
The beauty of the 14th Amendment is that it can and has been used to advance the rights of marginalized groups against all odds. This follows in suit with one of the core values of our legal system: equal justice under law.
Should Obergefell be overturned, the responsibility of protecting same-sex marriage will return to the states, and several of them will put bans on it (read: Bible Belt states).
The danger lies in inconsistency.
Let’s say Obergefell is overturned, and Minnesota immediately passes an act that legalizes same-sex marriage within the state. Sure, queer people might have marriage rights protected then, but who’s to say that the political litmus won’t shift in the following years and banning same-sex marriage won’t become popular?
Because it’s not guaranteed in every state, same-sex marriage can never be guaranteed — period. That’s why having uniform precedents at the federal level are so crucial.
Think about Brown v. Board of Education (1954). Because the Supreme Court deemed segregated schools as unconstitutional, all states had an obligation to desegregate public schools and ensure equal education to people of color, even if it meant going against people’s views.
Of course, we have to acknowledge that de-facto segregation still exists, and communities of color are still routinely screwed over, but judicial precedent matters.
It sets a constitutional and cultural standard.
And all this because Obergefell v. Hodges, “violates religious freedom.”
To that, I have to ask Justice Thomas and Justice Alito a simple question:
The freedom to discriminate?
The freedom to refuse individuals legal help, adoption services, wedding venues and health care?
The freedom to allow for conversion therapy — which, need I remind you, makes individuals nearly 10 times more likely to attempt suicide post-therapy, according to a study conducted by San Francisco State University, within the United States?
Let it be known that this is not about “religious freedom.” If religious freedom really mattered within the United States, we’d be treating Muslims, atheists and any other non-Christian peoples significantly better.
No, this is about protecting the status quo.
This is about protecting the pastor who clutches a cross in one hand and proclaims the gays are going to hell.
This is about validating the Karens who go after same-sex couples in public and say, “Excuse me, can you not do that in public? Not in front of my children. You’ll give them ideas.”
This is about defending the parent who hits their queer child with a Bible to “beat the devil out of them.”
Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas play a huge role in the Supreme Court’s current, right-wing revolution by placing ideology over country. By declaring a war on gay marriage, they’ve made it personal.
I believe marriage is beautiful. Beyond the legal benefits, it can teach us so much about ourselves, about self-sacrifice and about loyalty. And maybe I am naive for saying that, but it’s a future for myself that I believe in.
And the thought of losing that future breaks my heart.