It's hard for me to imagine that the Roberts Court, of all Courts, would be the one to declare that marriage equality is a constitutional right. It's hard for me to believe that the Court would announce its intent to consider the question of gay marriage a month after Barack Obama's reelection if Roberts and his Republican allies didn't see this as the last chance to lock in a right-wing viewpoint on this question as Supreme Court precedent before Obama gets to change the ideological makeup of the Court (and lower courts).
But even many wary supporters of marriage equality seem to think the time is now:
"There is no question that it is a risk," said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom of California. "If they nationalize it and reject it, that's going to take decades to come back to the court."On the other side -- even though I think it's unlikely -- I wonder about the consequences of a win. I agree with this woman:
... Mr. Newsom said he trusted the counsel of the high-profile lawyers for the plaintiffs, David Boies and Theodore B. Olson, that this time and this court were right for the case.
"I'm going to defer to their expertise rather than my instincts," Mr. Newsom said. "I think it's worth the risk."
Angela Gabriel, 43, a lesbian in Atlanta, said she was cautiously optimistic that the court would rule in favor of same-sex marriage, but was concerned about the ramifications of that outcome in socially conservative regions.I really think a constitutional enshrinement of a right to gay marriage in every state would set off a backlash -- in deep-red states, but not limited to those states -- at least as fierce as the one against Roe v. Wade, and possibly as fierce as the one against civil rights in the fifties and sixties.
"Georgia is just not as progressive or forward-thinking or accepting of everyone,"' she said. "There would be a lot of pushback."
And I don't know how I feel about that. If we could go back, would we want to give up any of the legal advances of the civil rights era just to avoid the violence, and then the mass exodus of Southern whites to the GOP, with the awful results from Nixon through Bush and the tea party? No -- but we see that there was a cost. If we could go back, would we want to give up Roe to avoid the anti-abortion backlash, the violence, the relentless chipping away at abortion rights? I'm not sure -- haven't the antis chipped away at abortion rights and made abortion effectively legal only in a handful of states, just as it probably would have been without Roe?
I worry that this could be worse -- we have a horrible economy, and a right-wing population that's told 24/7 that its opponents are pure evil. If they have to allow gay marriage in Alabama and Mississippi and South Carolina (and Kansas and Oklahoma and Missouri), there's going to be unrest in the streets, there's going to be serious talk of secession, and I think there's going to be violence. Is it worth it? Well, maybe that's an appropriate cost. But I think there would be a cost. It's going to get ugly.