After today’s Supreme Court ruling, it is now illegal for states to refuse marriage certificates to same-sex couples.
President Obama, who has flipped — and flipped back again — on marriage equality issues during his long political career, spoke today from the Rose Garden about the significance of today’s ruling.
“Our nation was founded on a bedrock principle, that we are all created equal,” he said. “The project of each generation is to bridge the meaning of those founding words with the realities of changing times — a never-ending quest to ensure those words ring true for every single American. Progress on this journey often comes in small increments. Sometimes two steps forward, one step back, propelled by the persistent effort of dedicated citizens. And sometimes there are days like this, when that slow, steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.”
“This morning, the court recognized that the Constitution guarantees marriage equality,” he continued. “In doing so, they’ve reaffirmed that all Americans are entitled to the equal protection of the law. That all people should be treated equal, regardless of who they are or whom they love. This decision will end the patchwork system we currently have; it will end the uncertainty hundreds of thousands of same-sex couples face from not knowing whether their marriage, legitimate in the eyes of one state, will remain if they decided to move — or even visit — another. This ruling will strengthen all of our communities by offering to all loving same-sex couples the dignity of marriage across this great land.”
No doubt today is a joyous day for many Americans. An historic one even. And to his credit, President Obama spoke movingly — and passionately — about what ordinary citizens have accomplished to bring about this profound social change. Today we witnessed history in the making. But as Justice Scalia warned in his fiery dissenting opinion, today's ruling raises uncomfortable questions about judicial activism.
As a matter of fact, he argued that the sweeping transformation brought forth by today’s opinion is, in his words, a “threat to American democracy."
“Until the courts put a stop to it, public debate over same-sex marriage displayed American democracy at its best,” he wrote. “Individuals on both sides of the issue passionately, but respectfully, attempted to persuade their fellow citizens to accept their views. Americans considered the arguments and put the question to a vote. The electorates of 11 States, either directly or through their representatives, chose to expand the traditional definition of marriage. Many more decided not to. Win or lose, advocates for both sides continued pressing their cases, secure in the knowledge that an electoral loss can be negated by a later electoral win. That is exactly how our system of government is supposed to work.”
And yet, this centuries-old principle, he argued, has been assailed and violated.
“[T]o allow the policy question of same-sex marriage to be considered and resolved by a select, patrician, highly unrepresentative panel of nine,” he added, “is to violate a principle even more fundamental than no taxation without representation: no social transformation without representation.”
Regardless, the Supreme Court has spoken, and marriage equality is therefore now a fundamental right. And while many learned constitutional scholars, including Justice Scalia, vehemently disagree with the Court’s decision, the ruling will stand for now.
Editor's note: Justice Scalia's dissent has been edited slightly for clarification and readability purposes.