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Horowitz: Marriage Equality Realized

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

 

Rob Horowitz

It is fitting that Friday’s landmark decision legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states was announced as we near the annual July 4th celebration of the founding of our nation. The decision fulfills the aspirational promise underlying Thomas Jefferson’s famous words in the Declaration of Independence. “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among them are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Marriage equality challenges us to live up to the fundamental principles upon which our nation was founded.  The US Supreme Court met the challenge last week in its 5-4 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.  Proclaiming our fellow gay and lesbian Americans rights to equal protection under the laws, Justice Kennedy in his soaring majority opinion said, “It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

Sounding a similar note in his remarks praising the decision, President Obama  said, “We are people who believe every child is entitled to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. There is so much more work to be done to extend the full promise of America to every American. But today, we can say in no uncertain terms that we’ve made our union a little more perfect.”

The Supreme Court decisions reflect a dramatic shift in public opinion on marriage equality. In 2004, only 31% of Americans supported same sex marriage, while 60% were opposed. Now, just over ten years later, there is a solid national majority in support of same sex marriage. Republican Pollster Jan van Lohuizen explains this pronounced shift in public opinion: “As more people have become aware of friends and family members who are gay, attitudes have begun to shift at an accelerated pace.” People with family members or close friends who are gay or lesbian are twice as likely to support same sex marriage as those who do not have a close relationship with someone who is gay, according to the PEW Research Center.

It is the case that the Court was closely divided with the 4 Justices that were in the minority all issuing their own dissents. Justice Scalia’s dissent was particularly pungent: “The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.”

Most of the Republican Presidential candidates also denounced the decision. They were joined in their dissatisfaction by a number of prominent conservatives and conservative organizations. In a democracy, of course, voices of opposition are to be expected, even welcomed, and the tone while sharp was generally speaking not hateful.

So let us all enjoy the approaching 4th of July holiday with fresh evidence of the remarkable nature of our nation—the world’s most successful experiment in self-governance; 239 years old and still going strong.

Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island

 

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