As Massachusetts lawyers, we have prided ourselves by association with the SJC’s Goodridge v. Department of Public Health decision. For the people directly involved in the battles for gay and lesbian rights, progress from then until now has probably seemed to be painfully slow; but to those of us not on the front lines, perhaps bearing in mind the historical path of previous civil rights aspirants like African Americans and women, it can seem breathtakingly fast -- and that is good.
We have previously blogged about the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and the utter indefensibility of congressional authorization to pay for its defense before the United States Supreme Court. More recently, and more happily, we discussed the 2012 elections, in which three states broke new ground with statewide electoral victories for marriage equality. The whiff of inevitability that last November was advanced further last week, when the Department of Justice filed briefs not only in support of DOMA’s demise, but also in support of striking California’s Proposition 8 ban of same sex marriage.
How remarkable is that? A presidential administration supporting constitutional attack on legislation signed by the last president from his own party; then filing a brief on what is ostensibly a purely state matter where the government is not even a party; all following closely on the heels of the abolition of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” It may seem less surprising after the President’s second inaugural address and the views that he espoused during the 2012 election (doesn’t it seem like eons since Vice-President Biden outed the President, intentionally or otherwise?), but isn’t this the same President who comforted some by declaring his personal view that marriage is between a man and a woman, just 4 years before?
Regardless of what the Supreme Court rules this year, once civil rights movements take hold in this country they tend to go generally in one direction. With marriage equality beginning to take hold with the electorate in November, more so in the popular opinion polls since, and with the cause now being re-cast by a growing minority of conservatives thinkers as their own, the inevitable end looms closer.
From Justice Marshall to Ted Olson to President Obama, that is something for which we can all be proud and grateful.