5 Great Quotes From Today’s Virginia Marriage Win, and 1 That Sucks

loving_vs_virginiaHardly a day goes buy without a marriage equality victory, and the latest was a doozy: Virginia! Not only is it the state for lovers, it’s also home to the historic Loving v. Virginia case that overturned interracial marriage.

And now it’s also home to the historic Bostic v. Rainey case that twice found that banning marriage for gay and lesbian couples is unconstitutional.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its decision today in AFER’s case. (Remember AFER? The group that won marriage back in California? Yeah they’ve been hard at work on the other coast for the last year, racking up more wins.) The next stop is probably the U. S. Supreme Court — the losing side has two weeks to petition the Fourth for a reheating, or three months to petition the Supreme Court. The state should follow the advice of the North Carolina attorney general, who today said he would not appeal the ruling because “There’s really no argument left to be made.”

We’ve collected some of our favorite quotes below. This win is a big, big deal, beyond just Virginia’s state lines. Because it came from the Fourth Circuit, it also covers North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia. North Carolina capitulated immediately, and this win makes victory in those cases far more likely. (The Fourth Circuit also includes Maryland, but they’ve had marriage equality for the last year and a half.)

In North Carolina, a coalition of religious groups sued the state, claiming that the ban known as Amendment One violates their religious freedom to solemnize weddings. That’s a pretty novel argument, and it must be delightfully galling to anti-gay fundamentalists that our side can cite religious as urgently as they can.

Both West Virginia and South Carolina have cases that were effectively put on pause by judges who were waiting for the Bostic ruling. So, now that we have it, and it’s awesome, it’s very likely that those cases will start back up again. And we’ll probably have more victories very soon — possibly within the next few days. Or possibly in a few months. The judicial system is totally unpredictable, like a colony of drunken bats!

Until we have those wins (or, possibly, but probably not, losses), let’s take a look at the highlights from today’s ruling.

Oh, Right, the Constitution

Here’s our favorite quote:

The choice of whether and whom to marry is an intensely personal decision that alters the course of an individual’s life. Denying same-sex couples this choice prohibits them from participating fully in our society, which is precisely the type of segregation that the Fourteenth Amendment cannot countenance.

First of all, this is awesome because of the retro use of “countenance,” like one of the Brontë sisters wrote this ruling.

But it’s also great because it gets to the real meat of the case: Does the U. S. Constitution protect LGBT couples? And yes, yes it does, says the court. This isn’t a huge shock, since around two dozen other courts have issued similar rulings in the last year. But it’s still nice to hear.

It’s also important because a recent brief by the Attorney General of Wisconsin, J. B. Van Hollen, claimed that the U. S. Constitution can’t protect LGBT citizens by discrimination by the state. That’s obviously a nutty argument, and we’re glad to see that courts aren’t giving it any credibility.

In fact, the court also wrote,

“[s]tate laws defining and regulating marriage, of course, must respect the constitutional rights of persons.” … states must exercise their authority without trampling constitutional guarantees.

That’s pretty much a direct rebuke of lawyers who argue that the Constitution doesn’t apply to them in these cases.

Think of the Kids

Here’s another good line:

“there is no scientific evidence that parenting effectiveness is related to parental sexual orientation.” … “the parenting abilities of gay men and lesbians—and the positive outcomes for their children—are not areas where most credible scientific researchers disagree.”

Our opponents tried to claim that kids need a biological mom & pop in order to grow up properly, and that gay and lesbian parents are sub-optimal. That’s just not true, according to every single real medical organization in the country. (The American College of Pediatricians disagrees, but — surprise! — they’re a phony medical group, recently founded by bigots for the sole purpose of disguising their bigotry as science.)

Fortunately, the Fourth Circuit recognized that real doctors are happy with gay and lesbian parents. In fact, the above quote wasn’t even written by the court; it was written in an amicus brief by medical groups, and the court liked it so much that they simply included it in their decision, calling it “extremely persuasive.” Nice work, docs!

Fundamental Rights

Comparing LGBT marriage cases to other marriage cases can be tricky business. Nobody wins when you play the “which disenfranchised group has suffered more” contest.

But there are plenty of similarities between recent marriage cases and ones that have come in decades past. The Fourth Circuit compared Bostic to cases like Loving (interracial marriage) and Zablocki v. Redhail (marriage for alimony violators):

These cases do not define the rights in question as “the right to interracial marriage,” “the right of people owing child support to marry,” and “the right of prison inmates to marry.” Instead, they speak of a broad right to marry that is not circumscribed based on the characteristics of the individuals seeking to exercise that right. 

This is some pretty flowery language, but the meaning is clear. It doesn’t matter who you are, or what characteristics define you; the freedom to marry extends to all people.

Obviously, the court doesn’t intend to say that all people should be allowed to marry whoever or whatever they want. (Relatives, kids, multiple partners, animals, etc.) That would be so insane that it goes without saying. But our crazier opponents love to pretend that letting gay and lesbian couples marry justifies opening marriage up to all kinds of weird relationships. In the future, we’re hoping that court decision qualify that “broad right to marry that is not circumscribed” by adding that they’re not talking about “outside the box” relationships like, you know, Clint Eastwood talking to a chair. Because apparently some people really think that’s the next step.

None of Your Business, Bigots

Check this line out:

…allowing loving, committed same-sex couples to marry and recognizing their out-of-state marriages will strengthen the institution of marriage. … Prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying and ignoring their out-of-state marriages does not serve Virginia’s goal of preventing out-of-wedlock births. … barring same-sex couples’ access to marriage does nothing to further Virginia’s interest in responsible procreation.

In other words, stop harassing gay and lesbian couples, you crazy bigots. They’re not hurting anyone, no matter how much you claim that they are. In fact, the court is saying, gay and lesbian couples are actually good for marriage.

We can only imagine (with great glee) the gnashing of teeth that must be happening at the National Organization for Marriage right now. That is, if they’re not all passed out drunk at this point.

Stop Talking Crazy

Let’s expand on that “good for marriage” argument from the last quote. Gay and lesbian couples can make the institution of marriage stronger, the court is saying. And at the very least, they won’t make it worse.

There is absolutely no reason to suspect that prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying and refusing to recognize their out-of-state marriages will cause same-sex couples to raise fewer children or impel married opposite-sex couples to raise more children.

Got that? Anti-gay weirdos love to claim that somehow, letting us marry will cause straight couples to break up, or stop having babies. This is, to put it nicely, nuts. Or as one court recently wrote, “these arguments are not those of serious people.”

Gays are not Straight, and This Matters Somehow

Let’s also take a peek at the dissent, written by Judge Paul Niemeyer. He doesn’t make a compelling argument, and his whole dissent boils down to “gay and lesbian couples are different from straight couples, and this is important for reasons I can’t fully explain.”

In previous marriage cases, he writes, “The type of relationship sought was always the traditional, man-woman relationship to which the term ‘marriage’ was theretofore always assumed to refer.”

Okay, sure, that’s true. But who cares? What difference does it make? Yeah, sure, Loving v Virginia was about a straight couple, because it had to be. Straight culture had oppressed LGBT couples for so long and with such thoroughness that no gay couple could possibly have brought that case and won. That doesn’t mean that there weren’t lots of interracial same-sex couples at the time. Gay and lesbian couples are similarly situated to any other loving heterosexual couple.

It’s likely that all of the previous cases were about right-handed couples. Or couples who dislike broccoli. Or couples raised in a religious faith tradition. None of these things matter or have any bearing on the constitutional question.

Niemeyer also points out,

Only the union of a man and a woman has the capacity to produce children and thus to carry on the species.

Yeah, again, who cares? This is true, but so what?

Niemeyer is trying to say that gay marriage is simply too novel an experiment to judge in the same way as interracial marriage. (We’re sure that judges had the same thing to say about interracial marriage, back in the day.)

But this is a claim that only a straight person who has totally isolated himself from the world could make. Gay couplehood is not at all novel to us. Or to our families. Or to anyone who’s made an effort to get to know the gay people in their lives.

His argument doesn’t hold water, and at the end of the day, it’s clear why two of his colleagues ruled in our favor. Watch out Antonin Scalia, on to the U. S. Supreme Court!

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  • Dakotahgeo

    It just warms my heart when the right wingers get their nether parts legally handed to them on a platter! But sad when I think of all the payola and money wasted by their right wing victims to fight a war that was never in their favor to begin with! The millions paid to Brian, Maggie, Robertson, Dobson, Falwell, Swaggart, et al, to spew their ugly and poisonous venom when, in reality, they didn’t have a chance. The GLBT community has won, and God… is very, very pleased!

  • Geoff B

    @Dakotahgeo: The most ironic thing is that a Republican senator (Lisa Murkowski) very simply destroyed the Right Wing’s arguement about marriage equality by simply pointing out being pro marriage equality isthe correct conservative position (government staying out of people’s lives and freedom). Not to mention the so called “religious freedom arguement falls flat when one takes into account several major religions are pro same sex marriage. Why are Quakers, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, etc religious freedoms lesser than Catholics, Baptists, Mormons and Muslims? The “Christian” right have no legally valid arguements and the courts are starting to see that. Bigotry is not a legally valid arguement. I have little doubt this will be settled once and for all soon and hopefully the Bachmanns, Palins, Santorums, and Robertsons of the world will piss off and just self immolate.

  • bjohnmasters

    @Geoff B: This is why I actually want to see the North Carolina case actually get argued. It’s the most novel legal theory to be presented so far. I mean, Tony, Brian and Bryan have always been correct in saying there is no right to gay marriage in the Constitution. What they never mention is there is also no right to straight marriage in the Constitution. What the courts have all said is that, absent some compelling state interest, LGBT people get the same access to a legal/civil institution as everyone else. That’s easy enough to figure out.

    But the next big argument, as we’ve seen with Hobby Lobby and the calls for special religious exemptions in the President’s Executive Order, etc. is for the krazy kristian kooks to try to carve out the deepest and broadest religious exemptions. (OK, the courts say you can get married, but you can’t use my otherwise publicly available banquet hall, and I don’t have to bake you a cake.) The argument being there is some mythical religious sanctity around civil marriages that the courts and government must protect. So, the screams about religious freedom.

    Now, (and I love the Satanist case about the abortion restrictions) the krazy krisitian kooks are about to learn that these religious freedoms arguments can cut two ways, and the North Carolina case is the PERFECT example. I’ve been saying all along…what about the religious freedoms of those who want to marry gay people? So hopefully the North Carolina will go forward.

  • MarionPaige

    Not too long ago straight unmarried couples were protesting a law in Virginia that made unmarried cohabitation illegal.

    As more states allow same sex marriage, the extremely small numbers of gay people who elect to marry just becomes that more glaring.

    Anyone remember those claims that legalized gay marriage would pump millions of dollars into New York’s economy? The reality is that the total number of married gays in NOrth America is less than the number of tourists New York gets in a year from Japan. Total number of married gay couples estimated as 100,000.

    You know something is bullshit combined effort by the big media companies to not report on it. The GAY COMMUNITY is not interested in marriage. A handful of lesbians are but not the gay community.

  • glennmcbride

    “Hardly a day goes buy” ?

  • MarionPaige

    the available evidence suggests that there are not millions of gay people in fucking West Virginia and North Fucking Carolina who are eager to marry. So, who exactly is spending millions to bring gay marriage to those states and why? When most gay people can be fired for being gay?

    I think if people check in on who formed AFER and Why they will see that the org is all about building Rob Reiner’s political profile for his possible run for Governor of California.

  • tricky ricky

    it seems that Judge Paul Niemeyer is not qualified to sit as a judge. if he can’t make a coherent VALID LEGAL argument when he dissents he needs to resign his position. his dissent has absolutely no legal basis or foundation in the law or previous rulings,it is entirely right wing talking point clap trap.

  • Sammy Schlipshit

    As to that tired, ignorant comment about what the word ‘marriage’ really means….marriage has been sodomized…er…solemnized in various ways throughout history.

    Only really uneducated, mean spirited people still say such lies.

  • jean

    Judge Niemeyer’s statement is ignoring all the straight couples who don’t want kids but get to enjoy the benefits of marriage. It is also insulting to all the straight couples who adopt or have children through surrogacy, artificial insemination, or other methods that many gay couples employ to successfully procreate!

  • scotshot

    @MarionPaige: @MarionPaige: Sorry to blow a whole in your argument but have you looked at any of the numbers on heterosexual inter-racial marriage? It all boils down to the fact that if one is not free, no one is.

    Are you the zaftig Marion Page who is all over Google Images? The topless one who appears to be having a lot of fun with lather?

  • skeetaro

    @MarionPaige: Because “Marion” says so, it must be true? Less than 50% of ALL adult Americans are married. So what is your point? That because all gay couples don’t run out and get married it’s ‘bullshit’? The only bullshit is being spewed from you.

Comments are closed.