Texas, gay marriage, and the Supreme Court
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The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to hear two cases involving same-sex marriage could provide yet another indication of how isolated Texas politics has become from the national mainstream. As James Carville pointed out on ABC’s “This Week” yesterday, Americans’ opinions on same-sex marriage have changed with astonishing rapidity—but not here. (George Will said that the opposition to gay marriage is “literally dying”—meaning that the opposition is increasingly limited to old people.
Readers will recall that in 2004, Karl Rove got Republicans in key states to hold referenda on the issue in the expectation that they would boost GOP turnout and reelect George W. Bush. But Texas still wants to tell its citizens whom they can marry. We are behind the curve in social mores, and our politics tracks our society. A national Pew poll in October showed proponents of same-sex marriages outnumbered opponents by 49% to 40%. In 2008, just one election cycle ago, only 39% favored gay marriage and 52% were opposed. The rate of change is inexorable, but I fully expect our state officials to complain about judicial activism (and let’s not forget the Tenth Amendment) when the Supreme Court busts DOMA, both the state and federal versions, as it surely will.
A nineteenth century American humorist named Finley Peter Dunne wrote a book titled “Mr. Dooley in Peace & War” featuring the observations on American life of a fictional Irish barkeep named Mr. Dooley. Mr. Dooley’s lasting contribution to American politics is his commentary that “the Supreme Court follows the election returns.” It is no coincidence that Maine and Maryland voted to legalize same-sex marriage on November 6, just a few days before the Supremes agreed to hear the cases on same-sex marriage.
As I point out in my column in the January issue of Texas Monthly, which will be available online a week from Wednesday, Democrats like to call their winning formula “COTA,” short for “coalition of the ascendant”—that is college-educated women, blacks, Latinos, gays, and young people. Nothing lasts forever in politics, but at the moment, Democrats are much closer to the demographic cutting edge than Republicans are.
Here is a paragraph from ScotusBlog by Neal Devins and Tara Grove on the Court’s decision to hear the two cases:
Windsor and Perry are likely to be two of the most important constitutional decisions in our lifetimes. If (as we suspect), the Court reaches the merits of each case, we believe it will advance the cause of same-sex marriage by invalidating both DOMA and Proposition 8. But, in our view, the Court’s jurisdictional rulings — on the power of a single chamber of Congress and private sponsors of ballot initiatives to defend federal and state measures — will also have important implications, informing the scope of the constitutional separation of powers at both the federal and state level.
I agree with the analysis. History does not move backward. Society is not going to block a union of consenting adults, regardless of sexual orientation. DOMA is another of the social issues that is killing Republicans. Government should get out of people’s private lives. Legislative bodies should not determine who should marry whom. What God has made, let no politician rent asunder.