The syllabus of the New Jersey Supreme Court's decision in Lewis v. Harris, No. 68-05 (N.J. Oct. 25, 2006) states the essence of this landmark case:
Denying committed same-sex couples the financial and social benefits and privileges given to their married heterosexual counterparts bears no substantial relationship to a legitimate governmental purpose. The Court holds that under the equal protection guarantee of Article I, Paragraph 1 of the New Jersey Constitution, committed same-sex couples must be afforded on equal terms the same rights and benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex couples under the civil marriage statutes. The name to be given to the statutory scheme that provides full rights and benefits to same-sex couples, whether marriage or some other term, is a matter left to the democratic process.Dale Carpenter has provided excellent analysis of this decision. I write here to stress a single point that engages Jurisdynamics' central focus: illuminating the relationship between law and societal change.
This forum's original mission statement quoted the closing passage from Tennessee Williams's play, The Glass Menagerie, as inspiration for Jurisdynamics' various "[a]ttempt[s] to find in motion what was lost in space." In the wake of Lewis, I feel compelled to quote from Williams's introduction to The Glass Menagerie:
[P]urity of heart is the one success worth having. “In the time of your life -- live!” That time is short and it doesn’t return again. It is slipping away while I write this and while you read it, and the monosyllable of the clock is Loss, loss, loss, unless you devote your heart to its opposition.Among life's challenges, none is more difficult to undertake, and none is more rewarding when achieved, than the mission of finding one person to love above all others, and persuading that person to love you in return. The law has no legitimate basis for regulating this quest on the basis of the race or sex of one's beloved.
The most obvious analogy supporting legal recognition of same-sex marriages is Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967). It's such an obvious analogy that it is futile to cite any of the hundreds, thousands of sources that make the connection. But just because an argument is obvious does not make it wrong. In this instance, the Loving analogy is complete.
I take Loving personally. It was decided before I reached six months of age. I came of age in the geographic center of the American region that historically sanctioned extraordinary, even violent, measures to prevent even the hint of interracial mingling. I was born where all my immediate ancestors had been born themselves, an island at the eastern edge of World Island. My wife traces most of her ancestry to an island at the western extreme. The suggestion that these circumstances of ancestry, none of which either of us chose or could ever control, could bar us from being married is singularly offensive.
And so too is the suggestion that the sex of the members of a committed couple should determine that couple's entitlement to full recognition and protection under the law.
In spite of all this, it appears that one national political party seems hell-bent on devoting the final days of the 2006 campaign to condemning the mere suggestion of same-sex marriage. For shame. A party that has nothing affirmative to offer voters besides an incitement to hate deserves no votes. To oppose equal dignity for same-sex couples is an expression of revulsion. Decent people do not express revulsion at their friends or their families. Over time decency -- and love -- will prevail.
Those who would believe that they can leverage revulsion at same-sex relationships into immediate political advantage might retrieve their Dixie Chicks albums from cold storage. The second track on the Chicks' second album says it all:
Nobody runs from the law now babyDixie Chicks, "If I Fall You're Going Down With Me" , on Fly (1999).
Of love and gravity
Religiously inclined Republican voters might consider this comparison. Nearly two decades ago, a theocracy condemned Salman Rushdie to death for writing passages like the following:
To get his mind off the subject of love and desire, he studied, becoming an omnivorous autodidact, devouring the metamorphic myths of Greece and Rome, the avatars of Jupiter, the boy who became a flower, the spider-woman, Circe, everything; and the theosophy of Annie Besant, and unified field theory . . . . He filled himself up with God knows what, but he could not deny, in the small hours of his insomniac nights, that he was full of something that had never been used, that he did not know how to begin to use, that is, love.Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses 23-24 (1988). To put it in words that should be familiar to a significant chunk of the Republican base, but evidently mean nothing in practice:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.When this generation shall have passed from this earth, God and/or posterity will judge us as severely for our unwillingness to confess the legitimacy of homosexual love as we today judge those who resist the rightness -- legal, moral, and spiritual -- of Loving v. Virginia. Yesterday Massachusetts, today New Jersey, tomorrow America from sea to shining sea.