Saturday, June 27, 2015

On Obergefell vs Hodges

I'm somewhat conflicted.  I'm very happy that marriage equality has come at last to the United States, but I am worried by the way it got here.

40 years ago, a woman's right to choose came to every citizen in this country- not by a vote, but by the Supreme Court in Roe v Wade.  In the ensuing 40 years, we have seen that right become eroded and assaulted time and time again, as the court case provided an icon to rally against.  Social conservatives who previously were more than happy to work with Planned Parenthood in it's initial incarnation which promoted eugenics and forced abortions/sterilizations now railed against abortion as an unmitigated evil.  Even now, hundreds of thousands of Texas women are on the cusp of losing their ability to access contraception, let alone abortion, because of continued resistance by social conservatives who took advantage of the ruling to roil the people and gain political power.

60 years ago, Brown v Board of Education also seemingly brought  the end of segregation in schools.  What followed was decades of unrest and resistance as communities tried to fight the busing mandate, as politicians used the ruling to roil the people and gain political power.

Compare this to the 19th Amendment- passed in 1920 by 3/4 of the states, which guaranteed all women the right to vote.  There was no backlash- and no social movement against Women's suffrage ever picked up steam.  Consider also the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights act.  While racism in America is hardly conquered, the principles behind the Acts have not been openly challenged for decades.  It is unacceptable to be openly racist, or openly sexist- while being openly against abortion and against affirmative action/any help for minorities disadvantaged by decades of discrimination have remained solidly part of the American mainstream.

Change that comes by the will of the courts is liable to create a backlash as politicians use the changes wrought by those decisions as a focal point to influence the people and gain political power.  Meanwhile, change that comes from Congress at the end of a long campaign that convinces the American people has proved to be more durable, widely accepted, and less vulnerable to demagogues.

At the same time, waiting for such a campaign to work would take a long time, and leave many deserving people without the dignity and joy of marrying the ones they love.  Ultimately, I can only hope that the historical parallels will prove unfounded, and marriage equality will soon become an accepted and unchallenged part of America.