agenda advanced by
Supreme Court ruling
Attorney Ted Olsen articulated the conservative case for supporting gay marriage.
Millions of Americans are rejoicing today over the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage.
Some, however are not.
Unyielding, right-wing ideologues may be the only ones not celebrating.
But if the conservatives have a shred of intellectual honesty, even they would be delighted.
The top court has just advanced the “family values” agenda in a big way. And, as the president said, the US has become a “more perfect union.”
Similarly to when the Court overturned bans on interracial marriage in 1967, equality for same sex couples makes America a more just and tolerant society. Everyone benefits.
Ironically, some of the strongest arguments for recognizing same sex marriage have been advanced by conservatives, who see it as a plus for the “family values” so strongly advocated by far right ideologues.
Perhaps the best known is attorney Ted Olsen, who argued the California gay marriage case before the Supreme Court in 2013.
In his seminal 2010 Newsweek piece The Conservative Case For Gay Marriage Olsen wrote:
“The fact that individuals who happen to be gay want to share in this vital social institution is evidence that conservative ideals enjoy widespread acceptance.
Ted Olsen’s seminal article in Newsweek details why conservatives should support gay marriage. Click image to enlarge.
“Conservatives should celebrate this, rather than lament it. This is not a conservative or liberal issue; it is an American one, and it is time that we, as Americans, embraced it.”
Adding heft to his case, Olsen noted the stabilizing influence of marriage on family life and communities, issues central to the conservative cause.
But his views on equality speak even louder.
“The very idea of marriage is basic to recognition as equals in our society; any status short of that is inferior, unjust, and unconstitutional.
“Legalizing same-sex marriage would also be a recognition of basic American principles, and would represent the culmination of our nation’s commitment to equal rights. It is, some have said, the last major civil-rights milestone yet to be surpassed in our two-century struggle to attain the goals we set for this nation at its formation.”
Olsen thoroughly debunked conservative claims that same sex marriage should be opposed because of “tradition.”
“We once tolerated laws throughout this nation that prohibited marriage between persons of different races. California’s Supreme Court was the first to find that discrimination unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously agreed 20 years later, in 1967, in a case called Loving v. Virginia.”
The parallel with interracial marriage was astutely made by Joy Freeman-Coulbary in her 2012 article in The Washington Post titled Black History Month: Let’s embrace gay marriage
“Same-sex marriage and interracial marriage have historic parallels in gaining public support and legal recognition. At one point interracial marriage was considered taboo, illegal, and indeed un-American and a sacrilege. This was until Richard and Mildred Loving—a white man and black woman from Virginia—put their loving to the test by taking their case to the Supreme Court, which in 1967 overruled laws forbidding interracial marriage,” Freeman-Coulbary wrote.
“As someone who has had two heterosexual marriages, I find it laughable that social conservatives who oppose same-sex marriage think that heterosexuals are better equipped to honor and uphold this civil institution any more than same-sex couples.”
In his summary, Attorney Olsen completed the circle between the 1967 decision on interracial marriage and today’s ruling on gay marriage.
“I am convinced that Americans will be equally proud when we no longer discriminate against gays and lesbians and welcome them into our society,” Olsen wrote.
“I have no doubt that we are on the right side of this battle, the right side of the law, and the right side of history.”
It has been quite a long history.
As long ago as 1989, acclaimed conservative gay blogger Andrew Sullivan wrote in The New Republic what remains a defining treatise on the topic.
In Here Comes The Groom: A (Conservative) Case For Gay Marriage Sullivan said: “Legalizing gay marriage would offer homosexuals the same deal society now offers heterosexuals: general social approval and specific legal advantages in exchange for a deeper and harder-to-extract-yourself from commitment to another human being. Like straight marriage, it would foster social cohesion, emotional security, and economic prudence.
“Since there’s no reason gays should not be allowed to adopt or be foster parents, it could also help nurture children. And its introduction would not be some sort of radical break with social custom.
“Those conservatives who deplore promiscuity among some homosexuals should be among the first to support it.”
“[G]ay marriage is not a radical step. It avoids the mess of domestic partnership; it is humane; it is conservative in the best sense of the word. It’s also practical.”
That the Supreme Court has seen fit to find a constitutional protection for same sex marriage is indeed an historic occasion.
It moves the US into the modern era as a more egalitarian and tolerant society. It is not just for those directly affected, but all Americans can rejoice. Even those passionately espousing “family values” as a tenet of conservative doctrine have reason to join the celebration.
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