From The Supreme Court Forward

This article by Justin Snow was originally published on April 3, 2013 in Metro Weekly. Read the full article here.

The arguments before the Supreme Court on March 26 and 27 in the cases regarding California’s ban on same-sex marriage and DOMA were the culmination of years of litigation. They were also a defining moment in a movement that few predicted would see same-sex marriage enter center stage.

Indeed, during many of the years following the 1969 Stonewall Riots the movement’s attention was focused elsewhere – on hate-crimes legislation, federal workplace protections (which remain stalled in Congress) and the military’s ”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on out servicemembers. It was only a handful who looked to marriage as the issue that might provide the movement’s defining moment.

Among them was Evan Wolfson, the president and founder of Freedom to Marry. It was 30 years ago when a 26-year-old Wolfson wrote his Harvard Law thesis on same-sex marriage. Submitted in April 1983, the 140-page ”Samesex Marriage and Morality: The Human Rights Vision of the Constitution” has become the modern-day manifesto for the marriage-equality movement.

”For gay women and men, who also love, samesex marriage is a human aspiration, and a human right,” Wolfson wrote at a time when most states still had anti-sodomy laws. ”The Constitution and real morality demand its recognition. By freeing gay individuals as our constitutional morality requires, we will more fully free our ideas of love, and thus more fully free ourselves.”

As one of the early advocates for a constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry nationwide and as a key player in the 1993 Hawaii Supreme Court case challenging the state’s same-sex marriage ban, which sparked a political backlash leading to President Bill Clinton’s signing of DOMA, Wolfson bears a special connection to both cases.

”It’s extremely exciting to be at this moment and to know that the strategy of winning more states and winning more hearts and minds and having those millions of conversations has brought us to 58 percent support among the American people, up from 27 percent when I was doing the trial in Hawaii,” Wolfson told Metro Weekly on the steps of the Supreme Court after the March 26 arguments in the Proposition 8 case.

It was in August 1989 that the academic discussion of same-sex marriage hit major newsstands when the gay journalist Andrew Sullivan presented the ”conservative case for gay marriage” in the pages of The New Republic. In his cover story, ”Here Comes the Groom,” Sullivan argued against local governments’ decisions to create domestic partnerships in the wake of the AIDS epidemic and instead ”legalize old-style marriage for gays.”

”[G]ay marriage is not a radical step. It avoids the mess of domestic partnership; it is humane; it is conservative in the best sense of the word. It’s also practical,” Sullivan wrote. ”Given the fact that we already allow legal gay relationships, what possible social goal is advanced by framing the law to encourage these relationships to be unfaithful, undeveloped, and insecure?”

Read the full article at Metro Weekly.