Today, the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage across the United States in a landmark 5-4 decision. While the Fourteenth Amendment’s promise of equal protection played a large role in the ruling, what’s most remarkable is that one of the prominent supporting arguments the Court made is one that conservatives have used to oppose it.
For decades, opponents have claimed that gay marriage is a threat to family values. Some have gone so far as to oppose gay adoption for the same reason, arguing that “every child deserves a mom and a dad” as the popular retort goes.
Ironically, the Supreme Court turned this logic on its head today, pointing to the success of gay couples in adopting as proof that they aren’t a threat to family values or the institution of marriage:
Many same-sex couples provide loving and nurturing homes to their children, whether biological or adopted. And hundreds of thousands of children are presently being raised by such couples. Most States have allowed gays and lesbians to adopt, either as individuals or as couples, and many adopted and foster children have same-sex parents. This provides powerful confirmation from the law itself that gays and lesbians can create loving, supportive families.
Excluding same-sex couples from marriage thus conflicts with a central premise of the right to marry. Without the recognition, stability, and predictability marriage offers, their children suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser. They also suffer the significant material costs of being raised by unmarried parents,relegated through no fault of their own to a more difficult and uncertain family life. The marriage laws at issue here thus harm and humiliate the children of same-sex couples.
Translation: gay marriage is a conservative institution.
More than anything else, I believe this is why the march towards marriage equality has been so fast. Remember, the first state to legalize marriage, Massachusetts, did so in 2003. To think that only 12 years later same-sex marriage would be legal in all 50 states is remarkable progress. That’s because instead of disrupting the institution of marriage, the LGBT movement sought to preserve and join it.
Just think about the language gay rights groups have used over the past decade: love, family, equality. These are values that straight people fundamentally understand, turning them into allies instead of enemies. Rather than presenting anger as the face of social change (a mistake that so many movements make), gay couples shrewdly showed patience and faith that love will endure.
Far from threatening the institution of marriage, the Supreme Court’s ruling made a case for its preservation. In an era of high rates of divorce, children born out of wedlock, and orphans left to be wards of the state, today’s decision increases the supply of families to meet America’s great demand for love.
As a gay man myself, I can’t wait to spend the day celebrating with my boyfriend and dreaming about the future. Because the future is now limitless.