When the Supreme Court passed federal marriage equality, I remember being excited. As a person with a lot of friends and family in the LGBTQ community, I was happy for them. At the time, I was in a relationship with a man and denying my own queerness. But a lot has changed in my life in the five years since Obergefell was passed. I’m now in a same-sex relationship with someone I plan to marry. So hearing that the Supreme Court is already looking at ways to dismantle marriage equality has me angry, but also afraid for my own future.
On Monday, October 5th, Justice (and all-around POS) Clarence Thomas, along with Justice Samuel Alito, wrote a statement declaring their wish to look again at Obergefell vs. Hodges and overturn the SCOTUS decision. The statement was precipitated by the Supreme Court denying an appeal from former Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis. Remember her? The one refusing marriage licenses because she doesn’t think same-sex couples have the right to marry? Yeah, well, she is still mad that there were consequences to her actions. Even though Thomas and Alito agreed with the denial of the appeal, the whole thing stirred up some feelings that they just had to get out apparently. They’re worried that “religious freedom” is somehow under siege by allowing LGBTQ people to have their marriages recognized federally.
“By choosing to privilege a novel constitutional right over the religious liberty interests explicitly protected in the First Amendment, and by doing so undemocratically, the Court has created a problem that only it can fix,” they wrote in the statement to the other members of the Court. In their minds, “Obergefell will continue to have ‘ruinous consequences for religious liberty.’” Yes, because marriage equality for all is really the bad guy here.
As much as this country tries to say there’s a separation of church and state, that’s a load of bullshit. The tenets of Christianity are built into the fabric of America, and it’s never more clear than during conversations around the LGBTQ community. It’s amazing to think that the cis-hets are so nonplussed by the thought that queers should be their equals. At least when it comes to marriage. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that marriage is between a woman and a man. It’s their oppressive Christianity that claims this is the only way marriage can exist in this country. And none of them have ever been able to actually articulate how queer people being married affects their own heterosexual relationships. We’re not coming to break up their marriages, so what is there to be afraid of?
Earlier this year, I met the love of my life. It all happened quite out of the blue, but from very early in our relationship, I knew she was the one. Because we’re at the point in our lives where we very clearly know what we want, marriage has been a part of the conversation from the beginning. We’ve known since about a month or two into our relationship that we were going to get married. And as more time passes, we know we want it to happen sooner rather than later. COVID has been a big thing slowing us down for obvious reasons. But now that there’s even a tiny sliver of a chance they’ll take marriage equality away from us, we’re feeling the pressure of getting the ball rolling.
Her first marriage came on the heels of Proposition 8 in California, so she knows what it’s like to marry under duress. When you know the option can be taken away from you, it really changes how you look at things. The pandemic is slowing down the timeline in which we can get married, and that makes me nervous. Because of the what-ifs. What if we have to wait and then by time as we can, our ability to marry becomes conditional or impossible? No one should have to fear their marriage is legally under siege. Marriage is about finding a person you love so much you can’t imagine living your life without them. And then you make that commitment to them not just emotionally, but legally. For some people, the legality is just a technicality, but there are a lot of protections that come with that technicality.
Marriage equality is more than just the right to marry. It’s the right for us to have our marriages legally recognized as equal to that of a heterosexual couple. Many of the cases that make up Obergefell are fights over things like adopting children as a same-sex couple. Or being legally recognized as the spouse on a death certificate. People may not realize that things like that are not a given when you’re not a cishet couple. And for people who have always had that right, it may not seem like a big deal. But maybe people see our having rights as a threat to their own rights, even though that’s not the case at all.
In his statement about revisiting marriage equality as a constitutional right, Thomas made it really clear where his allegiance lies. He wrote that Obergefell “enables courts and governments to brand religious adherents who believe that marriage is between one man and one woman as bigots, making their religious liberty concerns that much easier to dismiss.” Look Clarence, no one is trying to take away your right to be a Christian and believe in God. Actually, there are a lot of Christian people in the community. All we’re asking is that you don’t use those beliefs as a way to oppress us.
Right now, Thomas, Alito et al know they may have a leg to stand on in getting marriage equality overturned if Amy Coney Barrett becomes a Supreme Court Justice. With her appointment as a possibility, they know they’ll have the upper hand on the more progressive justices. When Obergefell was ruled, the decision was only 5-4. So if there’s another conservative judge, that reversal is practically a slam dunk. And while my family lives in a “blue state,” we don’t know what the future could hold for us. It’s the unknown that makes everything so scary for us.
I love my partner, and I want to be legally able to create a life with her. We plan on getting married in the next year. We’re already raising my son from a previous relationship, and we want to have a child of our own. Even though she’s only been in my son’s life for eight months, she’s just as much of his parent as his dad, if not more so. She’s the one helping him with distance learning, she takes him to the park so I can work. And he already sees her as my wife. Some judge with an archaic view of what a marriage and family looks like shouldn’t be able to say that my relationship is less legal because we both happen to be women. It’s not fair.