What do you call a court action, or non-action, that makes a whole bunch of people deliriously happy, leaves a great many others pleased or indifferent, and incenses a substantial minority who come away unharmed?
How about a home run?
I can’t help noticing, as I tap out this essay in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to take up appeals of marriage equality victories in Indiana and four other states, that I am still married.
The archbishop of Indianapolis is still unmarried.
The men who’ve made careers of “defending traditional marriage” are still married, if they were married before Monday and have not followed their common practice of getting divorced in the interim.
We have, in short, expanded civil rights. We have not taken away rights, which was the perverse purpose of laws and constitutional amendments over which we have been squabbling and spending all these wasted years while an earnest minority of the population sought only to be recognized and financially secured as good bourgeois conservative neighbors.
Now, just like that, not by the meddling of an activist judiciary but by the passivity of a conservative one, the struggle is ended, the dream is reality, the nightmare we’ve been warned against must work its evil with the lights on and the coffee brewing.
Both sides by and large might have preferred a definitive ruling in favor of equality or state religion; but I’m perfectly happy with a clean, simple, quick ending that demonstrates this court doesn’t want the same-sex marriage issue. My layman’s mind-reading tells me the liberals and conservatives alike feared a 5-4 outcome, and Chief Justice John Roberts preferred to bypass the drama of casting the swing vote one way or the other. Quietly serving the interests of corporate manipulators of elections and taxation is more his métier.
Quietly is how this landmark event should play out, as contrasted with rulings for racial equality and the constitutional change giving women the vote. Those were large, highly visible groups whose range and depth of denial required strenuous, even traumatic adjustment on the part of society as a whole. The jury will be out forever on the costs and benefits of school desegregation, for example.
Gay people getting married? America is evolving that way anyway; we’re not surprised that celebrations of Monday’s news have extended far into the straight world, especially the younger sector. And whether the folks on my block congratulate or denigrate the guys in the white Cape Cod on the corner, their possession of a piece of paper from the county clerk won’t wreck our market values. It ought to make the guys more pleased to be here, having shed their second-class status and all, and eager to boost their contribution to the community that’s never demurred from collecting their taxes.
Nobody’s hurt – indeed, not even the traditional marriage champions. (Some are following the very old and still-practiced tradition of polygamy, only serially). As has been foreshadowed in the righteous rhetoric of the Curt Smiths and Micah Clarks and Mike Delphs, they’ll keep their loins girded to guard against further loss of “our” religious freedom. They join my own Catholic hierarchy in warning of church’s being forced to perform same-sex civil marriage.
And they’ll continue to enjoy their power and draw their paychecks. The wonderful historic moment of Oct. 6, 2014 left them with their fear of otherness to exploit. It left gay people and their friends and families with the challenge of going forth as graceful victors. Talk about a win-win.
Dan Carpenter is a freelance writer, a contributor to The Indianapolis Business Journal and the author of “Indiana Out Loud.”