Maybe you heard about this, but the Supreme Court has overturned the Defense of Marriage Act and, in the process, given Edith Windsor $350,000. Windsor filed suit against the federal government in 2010, arguing that DOMA unconstitutionally deprived her of a spousal exemption from the estate tax upon the death of her wife, Thea Spyer. This morning, the court ruled that DOMA “is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.” It also ruled that the plaintiffs in Hollingsworth v. Perry lacked standing, effectively driving a stake through the heart of California’s Proposition 8.
Today is the day, or one of several days this week: the Supreme Court has begun hearing arguments on Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage. Probably this it the first you have heard about this issue. To recap: the California Supreme Court affirmed the right of gay couples to marry in 2008. In November of that year, voters approved a ballot measure amending the California constitution to limit marriages to opposite-sex couples. In 2009, Theodore Olson and David Boies filed Hollingsworth v. Perry, No. 12-144, in which they argued that Prop 8 violated the federal constitution by allowing California voters to override their state’s supreme court. Judge Vaughn Walker of San Francisco’s Federal District Court agreed, but his decision was stayed pending Supreme Court review. That started this morning.
Monday in Princeton, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia defended his comparison of anti-sodomy laws to prohibitions against bestiality and murder. Speaking to gay freshman Duncan Hosie—who questioned whether it was appropriate to imply a connection between blowing a dude and shooting the Lone Ranger in order to penetrate his horse—Scalia said that “I don’t think it’s necessary, but I think it’s effective.” See, Justice Scalia only made that argument because it works. “It’s a form of argument that I thought you would have known, which is called the ‘reduction to the absurd,'” he added. “If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?” Obviously, the answer is no; if we permit gay marriage, we have to immediately overturn state and federal laws against murder. Differences between that reductio ad absurdum and Scalia’s after the jump.
You know it’s a surprise when the Reuters headline contains the phrase “takes no action”: the Supreme Court issed an orders list today that made no mention of the several pending appeals challenging the Defense of Marriage Act. Instead, the Supremes relisted those cases for further consideration on Friday. In the awkward Christmas dinner that is America’s highest court, gay marriage is your cousin who brought his “roommate” from New York. Sonia Sotomayor is your cool aunt, and the other eight members are your grandpa. They know what’s going on, probably, and their main priority is that no one talks about it.
It is a known fact that our society has lower standards for public behavior than any America that has come before. It is also well known that we are a nation of scolds. How to reconcile these two truths? You can drill a hole in the ocean floor and dump thousands of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico or claim to read all newspapers, and that’s cool, but take a picture of your wang and your career is over. It’s a balancing act, this American life of indulging every venal impulse while making sure never to leave yourself vulnerable to the judgment of 300 million other people doing same. Today is Friday, I have an absurd amount of work to do and a Blondie-style cocktail party to host when it’s over, and today’s link roundup is all about what you can do and what you can’t. I think you’ll be surprised by both. As usual around here, “surprised” means “grimly indignant.” Won’t you indignate with me?