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Up to now, in the more civilized circles of debate, folks have carefully avoided calling opponents of same-sex marriage bigots. (The other side hasn’t been quite so circumspect.)

But after the arguments at the Supreme Court yesterday, it’s hard to imagine how else to characterize opposition to marriage equality. It’s pretty clear that this has been a fig leaf all along, and now that momentum is on the side of equality, the leaf is about to fall.

The killer moment came when Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan (you know, the one that’s not a lesbian) nailed Paul Clement, who argued on behalf of House Republicans to uphold the law. Clement was droning on about the wondrous merits of DOMA to make sure we kept our laws all neat and tidy when Kagan issued a harsh reality check.

“Well, is what happened in 1996—and I’m going to quote from the House Report here—is that ‘Congress decided … to express moral disapproval of homosexuality,’” Kagan asked.  Clement was at a loss for words for a moment, and then came out with this defense: “Look, we are not going to strike down a statute just because a couple of legislators may have had an improper motive.”

And there you have it. Opponents of marriage equality have run out of excuses. DOMA was conceived in homophobia, which even by its defender’s admission, is wrong. So what’s left? Do people really oppose marriage equality because they are concerned about 1,100 federal statutes being out of whack with what states want to do?  Or is it because marriage equality means expressing moral approval and they can’t bring themselves to do that?

True, a lot of folks may just react reflexively to marriage equality. But that doesn’t make their opposition any less prejudiced. At some point, it’s fair to call it as we see it. That doesn’t mean branding people, but educating them.

But if you can’t point out their bigotry to them, can you ever educate them in how to get rid of it?

 

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