How Gay Marriage Became a Consitiutional Right

How Gay Marriage Became a Constitutional Right
The untold story of the improbable campaign that finally tipped the U.S. Supreme Court.
Bruno Domingos / Reuters

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MOLLY BALL JUL 1, 2015
On May 18, 1970, Jack Baker and Michael McConnell walked into a courthouse in Minneapolis, paid $10, and applied for a marriage license. The county clerk, Gerald Nelson, refused to give it to them. Obviously, he told them, marriage was for people of the opposite sex; it was silly to think otherwise.

Baker, a law student, didn’t agree. He and McConnell, a librarian, had met at a Halloween party in Oklahoma in 1966, shortly after Baker was pushed out of the Air Force for his sexuality. From the beginning, the men were committed to one another. In 1967, Baker proposed that they move in together. McConnell replied that he wanted to get married—really, legally married. The idea struck even Baker as odd at first, but he promised to find a way and decided to go to law school to figure it out.

When the clerk rejected Baker and McConnell’s application, they sued in state court. Nothing in the Minnesota marriage statute, Baker noted, mentioned gender. And even if it did, he argued, limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples would constitute unconstitutional discrimination on the basis of sex, violating both the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. He likened the situation to that of interracial marriage, which the Supreme Court had found unconstitutional in 1967, in Loving v. Virginia.
The trial court dismissed Baker’s claim. The Minnesota Supreme Court upheld that dismissal, in an opinion that cited the dictionary definition of marriage and contended, “The institution of marriage as a union of man and woman…is as old as the book of Genesis.” Finally, in 1972, Baker appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. It refused to hear the case, rejecting it with a single sentence: “The appeal is dismissed for want of a substantial federal question.” The idea that people of the same sex might have a constitutional right to get married, the dismissal suggested, was too absurd even to consider.

Last week, the high court reversed itself and declared that gays could marry nationwide. “Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in his sweeping decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. “They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

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The plaintiffs’ arguments in Obergefell were strikingly similar to those Baker made back in the 1970s. And the Constitution has not changed since Baker made his challenge (save for the ratification of the Twenty-Seventh Amendment, on congressional salaries). But the high court’s view of the legitimacy and constitutionality of same-sex marriage changed radically: In the span of 43 years, the notion had gone from ridiculous to constitutionally mandated. How did that happen?

I put the question to Mary Bonauto, who argued Obergefell before the Supreme Court in April. A Boston-based staff lawyer for Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, Bonauto won the Massachusetts case that made the state the first to allow gay couples to wed in 2004. In 1971, she noted, sodomy was a crime in nearly every state, gays were routinely persecuted and barred from public and private employment, and homosexuality was classified as a mental illness. “We were just as right then as we are now,” she said. “But there was a complete lack of understanding of the existence and common humanity of gay people.”
What changed, in other words, wasn’t the Constitution—it was the country. And what changed the country was a movement.

Friday’s decision wasn’t solely or even primarily the work of the lawyers and plaintiffs who brought the case. It was the product of the decades of activism that made the idea of gay marriage seem plausible, desirable, and right. By now, it has become a political cliché to wonder at how quickly public opinion has changed on gay marriage in recent years—support for “marriages between homosexuals,” measured at 60 percent this year, was just 27 percent when Gallup first asked the question in 1996. But that didn’t happen organically.
Supporters of gay marriage rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in the days before the Obergefell v. Hodges decision. (Joshua Roberts / Reuters)
The fight for gay marriage was, above all, a political campaign—a decades-long effort to win over the American public and, in turn, the court. It was a campaign with no fixed election day, focused on an electorate of nine people. But what it achieved was remarkable: not just a Supreme Court decision but a revolution in the way America sees its gay citizens. “It’s a virtuous cycle,” Andrew Sullivan, the author and blogger whose 1989 essay on gay marriage for The New Republic gave the idea political currency, told me. “The more we get married, the more normal we seem. And the more normal we seem, the more human we seem, the more our equality seems obviously important.”

Some gay activists harbor a certain amount of nostalgia for the days when their movement was seen as radical, deviant, extreme. Today, when many Americans think of gay people, they may think of that nice couple in the next apartment, or the family in the next pew at church, or their fellow parents in the PTA. (Baker and McConnell are still together, living a quiet life as retirees in Minneapolis.) This normalization will continue to reverberate as gays and lesbians push for more rights—the right not to be discriminated against, for example. The gay-marriage revolution didn’t end when the Supreme Court ruled.

Op-Ed: Where Is the Outrage for Gays Killed by ISIS?

OUT – Op-Ed: Where Is the Outrage for Gays Killed by ISIS?

Michael Lucas

The backlash against Dolce and Gabbana last week was immediate, brutal, and covered by news outlets from The New York Times to The Advocate to E! Online.

The gay fashion icons had made some decidedly unfashionable remarks about same sex marriage and gay parenting, including “The only family is the traditional one,” along with a reference to “synthetic” children.

The negative response from both the LGBT community and straight people was, I think, quite appropriate. But it only deepened my frustration over the relatively modest amount of news coverage and the surprising absence of protest over an issue of far greater importance to gays, lesbians, and all people of good will: the executions of men suspected of being gay by Islamic extremists in Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere in the Muslim world.

In recent months ISIS has released photos and videos of its masked members dragging these men to the rooftops of tall buildings and pushing them off, to the apparent delight of crowds below. In several cases, the hapless victims reportedly survived the fall, only to be stoned to death by onlookers.

The murders, which have taken place in ISIS strongholds such as Mosul and Raqqa, are often preceded by a jihadi denouncing the Koran-prohibited “crime” of sodomy. And they’re accompanied by cries of the Islamic phrase “Allahu akbar,” “God is great.”

Killing gays by making them plunge off high buildings is just the newest method used by Muslim radicals; other, more traditional means of murder are also in full force. Photos published on social media this month show the beheadings of two men for alleged homosexuality in the Nineveh province of Iraq, after a man described by a local official as an “Islamic State religious judge” read an indictment. Others have reportedly been crucified, and some mercilessly mutilated.

I ask you to envision a similar, horrific scenario in a very different location. Imagine if priests were tossing gay men off the top of St. Peter’s Basilica into the square below, with jubilant crowds filling Vatican City yelling “Praise be to Jesus Christ” (or the equivalent in Latin or Italian).

It is considered brave to bash the pope or a cardinal, but when anyone does the same of Muslim clerics, that critic is called a racist, an Islamophobe, or prejudiced.

Wouldn’t the Vatican scenario I described above be the headline on every American newspaper, the lead story on every newscast, the top trending topic on Twitter? Would not every LGBT leader, every human rights activist, every liberal and right-thinking person in the U.S. denounce the atrocities, as well as the religion that gave rise to such hateful actions? Would the streets of American cities not fill with protest marches and angry demonstrations?

Yet radical Muslims somehow seem to get a pass. Intensive news coverage and progressive protests apparently get detained at the border of Islam. Why is there this atrocious double standard?

There was worldwide revulsion when ISIS burned to death the caged Jordanian pilot, and decapitated Western journalists. But where is the outrage when Muslims publicly murder Muslim men for being gay, or stone to death Muslim women for adultery or for having been raped?

It’s been called “the soft bigotry of low expectations,” this notion that Muslims can’t be held to the same standards of behavior as those of other faiths. Liberal voices often compare conservative Christians or Jews with radical Muslims. But have longtime anti-gay preacher Pat Robertson or Judaism’s Lubavitcher Rebbe ever advocated actual violence against gay “sinners”?

Of course not. Political correctness, however, forces us to tiptoe around the truth that Islamists today are slaughtering people for homosexuality, blasphemy, and adultery, not to mention for sketching pictures of Muhammad.

Some courageous voices in both the liberal and Muslim communities have spoken out against the recent barbarism.

The insightful books of Wafa Sultan and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, two personal heroes of mine, grace my bookshelves. Both women secularized so they cannot even be counted as Islamic voices and in fact they are no longer welcome in the Muslim community and have bodyguards when they make public appearances. Where are the celebrities, LGBT leaders, and progressive politicians who decry the slightest hint of homophobia, yet remain silent when gay men descend to their deaths at the hands of thugs who say they are acting in the name of Islam?

In speaking recently about Muslim terrorism, President Obama, who cannot even bring himself to utter the phrase “Islamic extremism,” said, “Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”

The president entirely misses the point. Christianity and Judaism have continued to evolve over the centuries. In the last few days alone, the Presbyterian Church became the largest Protestant group to formally recognize gay marriage. And a Reform rabbi became the first openly lesbian president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. Much of Islam, however, is like a mountain that has never moved during the thousand four hundred of years of its existence.

Seventy years ago, the average American citizen might have been able to say, despite sporadic news reports, that he or she was not aware of the evil that was taking place inside Nazi concentration camps. Today, none of us can make that claim about the evil that is radical Islam. Smartphones in the very hands of the killers show us their savagery, and we excuse or ignore it at our own peril.

 

MICHAEL LUCAS is the creator of Lucas Entertainment, one of the largest studios producing all-male erotica. He lives in New York City. This essay is the opinion of the writer, and does not reflect the views or opinions of Out.

EXCLUSIVE! Lisa Vanderpump Marries Gay Couple – See The Vander-perfect Pics!

EXCLUSIVE! Lisa Vanderpump Marries Gay Couple – See The Vander-perfect Pics!

Restaurateur, reality TV star, and… ordained minister?! Yup, Lisa Vanderpump officiated her first gay wedding, and only perezhilton.com has the Vander-perfect pics and wedding day details. The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star wed Magno and Dominic Salva (above far left to right) on November 8 in the garden of her newest restaurant PUMP.

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Proposition Love Jewelry Featured on Bravo’s “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” March 17th

Proposition Love Jewelry Featured on Bravo’s “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” March 17th
As “Marriage” heads to U.S. Supreme Court for Final Ruling

LOS ANGELES, CA – Proposition Love, a fine jewelry company that caters to LGBT couples will be featured on episode #18 of Bravo’s “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” Tuesday, March 17th on at 9pm EDT/PDT.

Newly ordained minister and “housewife” Lisa Vanderpump officiates her first-ever wedding ceremony in the garden of her new restaurant/lounge PUMP in West Hollywood with Bravo camera’s capturing every exciting moment of partners Magno Salva and Dominic Pierson’s memorable moment.

As the national LGBT marriage debate goes before the U.S. Supreme Court for a final decision this June, Proposition Love designed and donated rings and had the honor of presenting them to the couple on their wedding day. Sam Street and Jonathan Tack, founders of Proposition Love Jewelry, collaborated with Lisa Vanderpump to create the wedding rings for the first ceremony she was to officiate.

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L to R: (Magno & Dominic Salva, Lisa Vanderpump, Sam Street, Jonathan Tack) and custom wedding bands

“Today I had the honour of officiating my first wedding at PUMP, beautiful couple entitled to equal rights. An emotional exquisite day! #LGBT” – Lisa Vanderpump @LisaVanderpump

Vanderpump worked with Street and Tack for weeks on the design of the rings, an interlocking motif crafted in white gold, symbolizing the love between newlyweds Dominic and Magno and the joining of their lives together.

Street commented “It was such an honor to design rings for Dominic and Magno’s special day as well as attending their beautiful ceremony.  Lisa Vanderpump was the icing on the “wedding” cake.  She is such a great advocate for our community.”

Prior to the wave of marriage equality sweeping the country, Street and Tack were married in California in 2008, as they couldn’t marry in their home state of New York. They are one of the 18,000 couples married during the short window of time before Prop 8 went into effect ending marriage equality in California.

Added Tack, “It’s encouraging to see support for marriage equality spreading nationwide and now finally before the Supreme Court; unlike when we were married six years ago in San Francisco’s City Hall.”

In preparation for the Supreme Court ruling, Proposition Love Jewelry created a video celebrating LOVE is LOVE with newlyweds Dominic and Magno, along with models Murray Swanby and Noah Wright and directed by Brad Hammer.  The video can be viewed at: PropositionLove.com.
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About Proposition Love Jewelry:
Proposition Love designs unique and beautiful jewelry for the LGBTQ community and their straight allies.  Proposition Love donates ten percent of profits from the sales of their jewelry to organizations that support Marriage Equality, gay rights, anti-bullying, LGBTQ youth and HIV/AIDS.  Their entire line can be found at PropositionLove.com, as well as selected styles at Macys.com . The jewelry company donates ten percent of profits from the sales of their jewelry to organizations that support Marriage Equality, gay rights, anti-bullying, LGBTQ youth and HIV/AIDS.