We Need to Talk About the SCOTUS Marriage Equality Dissenters

This past weekend, America erupted in rainbows.

via Frankie Torres
via Frankie Torres


We celebrated The Supreme Court’s declaration that it is unconstitutional to ban marriage for LGBT individuals nationwide. I had the privilege of being at the Court when the ruling was issued. We all cried. We all sang. A woman behind me called her partner and said, “Tennessee has to say we’re married now, baby.”

It was a moment in time that I will remember for the rest of my life. It was the kind of joy you experience deep in your chest.

But what I’m really going to remember is how close it was.

It’s something no one is talking about. The popular thing to say is, “Who cares? We won!” Well, we should all care. Only one justice stood between millions of peoples’ happiness, dignity, and all the legal benefits that come with a marriage licence. While we should all care about this victory, we should also take this opportunity, as activists, to mindfully assess the current state of this nation.

There is no better way to assess the nation’s views as a whole than to look at the four dissenting opinions on the Obergefell case.


Justice Scalia

And to allow the policy question of same-sex marriage to be considered and resolved by a select, patrician, highly unrepresentative panel of nine is to violate a principle even more fundamental than no taxation without representation: no social transformation without representation…

In a 2014 Gallup Poll, Americans from all different sides of the political spectrum came out in support of marriage equality. The latest 2015 numbers actually report a 63% supermajority of Americans support allowing gay couples to marry. In all honestly, though, we should still have equal representation—which is why there should be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, genderqueer, intersex, asexual, and pansexual individuals included in the conversation. After all, these individuals are the ones affected. Thanks, Justice Scalia!


Justice Roberts

…[T]he Court…orders the transformation of a social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia, for the Kalahari Bushmen and the Han Chinese, the Carthaginians and the Aztecs. Just who do we think we are?

We most certainly think we are Americans, Justice Roberts. If you would like us to get back to the traditional practices of the cultures you have listed above, we can certainly have a conversation about ripping people’s hearts out and sacrificing them to the Sun God. Just who do you think you are?

That bold quote wasn’t the only gem from Justice Roberts. Here’s another about feeling sad that he is a minority that is oppressed in America:

Perhaps the most discouraging aspect of today’s decision is the extent to which the majority feels compelled to sully those on the other side of the debate. The majority offers a cursory assurance that it does not intend to disparage people who, as a matter of conscience, cannot accept same- sex marriage.

In the words of Justin Timberlake, “What goes around, goes around, goes around, comes all the way back around.”


Justice Clarence Thomas

Jokes aside, this is the most sobering, fear-inducing, and heart-breaking assertion said in this dissent.

[H]uman dignity cannot be taken away by the government. Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved… The government cannot bestow dignity, and it cannot take it away.

You’re right, Justice Thomas. Human dignity cannot be taken away by the government. The government isn’t an acting person. The government only sets an entire precedent to treat others like garbage by saying “You are different and deserve different treatment.” So that is what the public does—treats LGBT/Black/immigrant/etc. individuals the way the government does. Justice Thomas, you give the green light for discrimination. If the highest law of the land tells us that only certain people can get married; that certain people can use a drinking fountain; that certain people have to be imprisoned, it sets the stage for discrimination at a social level. The government creates that atmosphere. People listen to what the government has to say, and they act accordingly. People listen to you, Justice Thomas.


That statement tells us where we are at as a nation. These men are Supreme Court Justices, high ranking officials in the justice system that decide right from wrong. While we celebrate this victory, we need to remember how close we almost came to the will of four men—it says a lot about how far we still have to go.


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