ACLU of Massachusetts communications director Chris Ott wrote this guest blog.
In the lead-up to the marriage cases before the U.S. Supreme Court this week, I talked with friends recently about the arguments that opponents of equality used to make. Still shaking my head in disbelief, even after nearly a decade, I said:
"They basically argued that the sky was going to fall if gay people were just allowed to get married!"
That was a ridiculous argument even at the time of the Massachusetts marriage breakthrough in 2004, but we still laughed, because it sounds even sillier today. I figured they must be trying other arguments by now, right?
It turns out that some opponents of equality are still — literally — making that same argument about the sky falling.
Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, has a piece at BostonGlobe.com today called Marriage — it’s between a man and a woman. First, Mineau lays out a scary-sounding list of things that treating people equally has supposedly caused:
[H]ere in Massachusetts, since same-sex marriage was established by judicial fiat, religious adoption agencies have been curtailed, parental education rights have been denied, and a full-court press is underway to take away the modesty, privacy and safety of all citizens in the name of transgender access to public bathrooms.
He concludes ominously:
The sky over our heads has an ominous look of falling. Let’s hope the Supreme Court gets it right.
Here's the thing: when people literally argue that the sky is going to fall if things don't go their way, it says a lot. It says that they believe their own position is so weak that their best chance is to stoke irrational fears. Also, remember who is most famous for making this argument? Chicken Little
Apart from that, Mineau's supposed harms comes from a really odd way of looking at things: feeling that some people's rights are being violated by not being able to impose their views on others, and denying them equal treatment under the law.
ACLU client Edie Windsor, whose case goes before the Court on Wednesday, unfortunately provides the perfect example of what opponents of equality have imposed on others.
Edie, at age 83, is challenging the misnamed “Defense" of Marriage Act (DOMA), which forced her to pay more than $360,000 in federal estate taxes after her beloved spouse Thea died in 2009.
Edie and Thea spent 44 years together. After a very long engagement, they were finally able to legally marry two years before Thea’s death after a long fight with multiple sclerosis. And if Edie had been married to a man, she would not have had to pay any estate taxes after Thea’s death.
Losing someone you love is the closest that most of us come to having the sky fall. In the midst of that, DOMA adds insult — and real harm — to injury.
Edie Windsor’s case is about ensuring fairness, pure and simple. No one will be hurt. Many people will be helped. And ending discrimination will not make the sky fall.
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