This is the day when the Supreme Court will hear the arguments about the constitutionality of marriage between people of the same sex. Due to the high level of interest in this issue, the Court has promised to make the audio and the written transcript of the arguments available by 1:00 pm, Central time. The arguments will run from 9:00 to 11:30. Go to www.supremecourt.gov for more information.
The pundits and court watchers think they have this one figured out. They expect at least five members to hold that the U.S. Constitution requires states to recognize same sex marriages. Of course we won’t know if they are right based on the arguments today. The Court will take its time on this one, probably issuing a decision in June.
It’s interesting to observe how major social change occurs in our open and free society. As a general rule, major social change tends to start with litigation long before it goes to legislation. Consider desegregation. Cases alleging that racial segregation was unconstitutional were bubbling through the judicial system in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Then in 1954, the Supreme Court issued its landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision.
Litigation happens before legislation because litigation only requires one determined plaintiff. Legislation requires a majority. So it is not surprising to see that it takes awhile before a majority is ready to enact major social change into law. The ruling in Brown was greeted with resistance, delay, and outright defiance. It took another ten years before public opinion about racial segregation reached the tipping point and Congress was courageous enough to enact the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Our special education laws provide another example of this. Litigation by determined parents, seeking public education for their children began in the late 1960s. By 1975, Congress was ready to enact the law that we now call IDEA.
The same thing has happened with gay marriage. Long before public opinion on this issue shifted, determined plaintiffs began filing lawsuits challenging state law bans on same-sex marriage. Now that litigation has reached the country’s highest court, which must definitively decide the issue.
So this is a historic day. I don’t know about you, but I look forward to listening to the arguments of the lawyers and the questions from the justices.
DAWG BONE: GET A GROUP TOGETHER IN YOUR SCHOOL TO LISTEN TO THESE ARGUMENTS. BRING POPCORN.