The Supreme Court ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act has stirring language from the majority opinion, as well as pointed rebuttals from the dissents. The majority opinion, written by Anthony Kennedy, speaks eloquently about the importance of dignity in the law.
By contrast, Antonin Scalia fumes in his dissent about the fact the court has embraced same-sex marriage. In particular, Scalia predicts that today’s decision will ultimately lead to all state restrictions on marriage equality being struck down.
Scalia predicted in the case striking down Colorado’s decision to prohibit antidiscrimination protections that that ruling would pave the way for same-sex marriages, so let’s hope his prediction comes true again.
Here are twelve key quotes from today’s ruling.
From the majority opinion:
DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others. The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.
For same-sex couples who wished to be married, the State [of New York] acted to give their lawful conduct a lawful status. This status is a far-reaching legal acknowledgment of the intimate relationship between two people, a relationship deemed by the State worthy of dignity in the community equal with all other marriages. It reflects both the community’s considered perspective on the historical roots of the institution of marriage and its evolving understanding of the meaning of equality.
Here the State’s decision to give this class of persons the right to marry conferred upon them a dignity and status of immense import. When the State used its historic and essential authority to define the marital relation in this way, its role and its power in making the decision enhanced the recognition, dignity, and protection of the class in their own community.
The avowed purpose and practical effect of the law here in question are to impose a disadvantage, a separate status, and so a stigma upon all who enter into same-sex marriages made lawful by the unquestioned authority of the States.
DOMA, because of its reach and extent, departs from this history and tradition of reliance on state law to define marriage…The Act’s demonstrated purpose is to ensure that if any State decides to recognize same-sex marriages, those unions will be treated as second-class marriages for purposes of federal law.
DOMA’s principal effect is to identify a subset of state sanctioned marriages and make them unequal. The principal purpose is to impose inequality, not for other reasons like governmental efficiency. Responsibilities, as well as rights, enhance the dignity and integrity of the person. And DOMA contrives to deprive some couples married under the laws of their State, but not other couples, of both rights and responsibilities.
[DOMA] humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples. The law in question makes it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives
Under DOMA, same-sex married couples have their lives burdened, by reason of government decree, in visible and public ways. By its great reach, DOMA touches many aspects of married and family life, from the mundane to the profound.
From Scalia’s dissent:
In the majority’s telling, this story is black-and-white: Hate your neighbor or come along with us. The truth is more complicated. It is hard to admit that one’s political opponents are not monsters, especially in a struggle like this one, and the challenge in the end proves more than today’s Court can handle. Too bad.
But to defend traditional marriage is not to condemn, demean, or humiliate those who would prefer other arrangements, any more than to defend the Constitution of the United States is to condemn, demean, or humiliate other constitutions. To hurl such accusations so casually demeans this institution.
As I have said, the real rationale of today’s opinion, whatever disappearing trail of its legalistic argle-bargle one chooses to follow, is that DOMA is motivated by “ ‘bare . . . desire to harm’” …How easy it is, indeed how inevitable, to reach the same conclusion with regard to state laws denying same-sex couples marital status.
From Justice Samuel Alito’s dissent:
Past changes in the understanding of marriage — for example, the gradual ascendance of the idea that romantic love is a prerequisite to marriage — have had far-reaching consequences. But the process by which such consequences come about is complex, involving the interaction of numerous factors, and tends to occur over an extended period of time. We can expect something similar to take place if same sex marriage becomes widely accepted. The long-term consequences of this change are not now known and are unlikely to be ascertainable for some time to come.