Gay Marriage: Should the High Court decide for the nation?

Warren Court that decided Brown vs Board of Education

THE U.S. SUPREME COURT SHAPING AMERICAN LIFE: This is the Warren Court that, in 1954, handed down Brown v. Board of Education. That landmark decision overturned the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson ruling, which had allowed state-sponsored segregation. The Warren Court ruled 9-to-0 that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal”—shifting the civil rights movement into high gear.

Supreme Court watchers try to divine how the justices will vote, interpreting words, tones, and gestures. After hearings yesterday on California’s ban on same-sex marriage, the divinations suggest that the high court won’t make a nationwide ruling for or against same-sex marriage. Rather, it may leave the decision up to the individual states, allowing each one to experiment.

If that happens, will you be satisfied?

Earlier Supreme Courts have left other matters to the states—such as racial voting rights and desegregation—then later had to step in to make nationwide rulings.

If gay marriage is left to the states, there is one place—even in a state with a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage—where the law doesn’t apply. Native American tribes. These are considered to be “domestic dependent nations.” They are sovereign nations, though not quite on par with, say, Canada. As a sovereign nation, they are not bound by state laws.

A case in point is The Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians in northern Michigan. The tribe is not bound by Michigan’s constitutional ban on gay marriage. Earlier this month, the Tribal Council voted in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. Soon after, it performed its first marriage ceremony of two men.

Would you like the Supreme Court to make a nationwide ruling?

Would you be happier with state-by-state laws?


Let’s show readers that we can have a vigorous, civil dialogue.

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  1. Eoghan Farquhar says

    ANY law, for or against gay marriage, IF a biblical argument is used, would be unconstitutional. The first amendment protects us against specific religious beliefs; the first amendment provides freedom of expression to all, not just some and especially not to just the very vocal.

    Marriage, as we know it, is really just a civil institution. The states recognized the potential to collect fees for allowing marriages back in the 1800s. So let the states collect their fees (render unto Caesar…). If God really has a problem with gay marriage, don’t you think God will handle it as God wishes? Otherwise, just let the people be; let those who want be married.

    Especially keep religion out of the argument. You’ll be violating our Constitution if you don’t.

  2. David Crumm says

    News analysis this morning, including the front-page New York Times coverage, makes it sound like we’re headed more toward an 1896 Plessy type of ruling — that separate but equal is OK in marriage for now — rather than a 1954 Brown ruling. Perhaps the justices actually have different reflections in private. But the public back-and-forth with them so far sounds like they’re going to leave the country — when they rule down the road — right were we are at the moment.

    I’m seeing years of legal struggle still ahead of us. This week absolutely is a fascinating moment into evolving American life and culture.