The Final Indignity

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October 7, 2014 9:21 am
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Yesterday afternoon Ted Cruz (R-TX) exploded with a sputtering, outraged response to the Supreme Court’s non-decision decision to allow marriage equality to go into effect in eleven more states (5 states immediately effected; 6 more effectively legalized). This came after the epic press release from the National Organization for Marriage, an historic primal scream in which the group pulled out every adjective their minds could muster in response to seeing their group’s raison d’etre slip out of the universe – “furious word salad“, as our gifted headline writers put it.

For most of us this was a decision all about dignity. But for the opponents of marriage equality it really did amount to the final indignity.

This was an extra dimension to yesterday’s ruling that was not immediately apparent and does not go to the true heart of the issue but is still notable in terms of the cultural politics which surround it. Most opponents of marriage equality have known for some time now that, as a legal matter, they are almost certainly on the losing side of this battle. That realization is compounded by the realization that the trajectory of public opinion suggests their will be no second hearing in the court of public opinion. But they have also consoled themselves with a self-image as twilight warriors fighting a heroic battle. If it’s to be an epic defeat, at least it’s to be a glorious one, with arguments made to history before the Supreme Court, an institution in which so much history and emotion and psychic weight is bound up for these people.

Part of the impact of yesterday’s ruling was that the Court did not even give these folks a hearing – literally. As I wrote yesterday, the Court basically moon-walked equality into law. Or to put it another way, the Court looked at this grand moment and said, ‘Whatever.’ Of course there’s a deeper legal intricacy to what the Court did, no doubt playing off its internal divisions in ways we’ll likely learn in their full detail years latter. But in another sense, the Court essentially said that the decision was self-evident as to not require explanation. So the antis not only lost. They didn’t even get their grand moment.

As I’ve said before, it’s difficult for me to imagine that, even if no Circuit ever upholds same sex marriage bans (thus providing the need for the Court to step in), the Court will not feel the need to explicitly make its voice heard on a matter of such profound social consequence. So I suspect in some form that big moment on the Court steps is still coming. But if and when it does it will be a big anti-climax. The Court has shown its cards, the horse has left the barn, pick your metaphor. It’s done. So when you see that spittle for the ages coming from the marriage dead-enders, that’s a big part of why.

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