This may be a hard concept for some of you to grasp. I understand why. I don't blame you for it. I will not judge you for it. All I ask from you is that you approach this with an open mind. Ready? Ok... here it goes.
The Supreme Court ruling legalizing marriage rights for homosexual couples across the nation was not actually about gay people.
I know what you're probably thinking, but give it a second to sink in.
There have been countless challenges to the right for homosexuals across the country to be legally recognized as married couples. Cases have been litigated at every level of the judicial system from the state, to each tier of the federal court structure. Some have been successful, but most have failed. Why? Because the focus has been on the states individual right to deny the recognition of gay marriage. Until now, gay marriage has been a States' Rights issue. What many of us normal, less politically attentive fail to realize is that "States' Rights" has become, in many instances, political code for "State sanctioned discrimination".
The concept of "States' Rights" became a focal point of American Politics even before the first constitution was written. The Articles of the Confederation was established to ensure a weak federal government. The states had all the power. It wasn't until the Confederation fell and the Constitution was written that "States' Rights" started to become challenged. An entire WAR was fought over them. Remember? The Civil War? Southern states broke away from the union and waged war primarily for the "States' Right" to maintain slavery as a legalized institution.
For those that slept through American History in high school AND college, and/or attended one of those "American Exceptionalist" school districts that whitewashed most of this countries history away, the South lost. Then came the aftermath. The slaves were freed by the 13th Amendment (NOT by Abraham Lincoln as many of you think). The Equal Protection Amendment passed as well (we will revisit this soon). Blacks were given the right to vote by the 15th Amendment. The result: the "States' Rights" argument came to a head.
So about that right to vote... Blacks know otherwise. While the constitution granted Blacks the right to vote in 1870, stating "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on the account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude". So how did Martin Luther King Jr. end up marching for Voting Rights nearly 100 years later?
While the constitution granted suffrage to Blacks, States had the right to regulate the voting process in their individual states. Insert poll taxes, literacy tests, the one drop rule, voting vouchers. All of these measures are more commonly known as "Jim Crow Laws". "States' Rights" was the root behind the entire system of segregation in the South. Voting rights, education, transportation, housing. All of these were sanctioned due to the State-by-State basis upon which regulations were established. They are the provisions that allowed states like Alabama and Governors like George Wallace were able to justify their actions. The Civil Rights Movement was as much a challenge to "States' Rights" as it was a quest for Civil Rights. "States' Rights were the rebuttal to the 14th Amendment that provided equal protection under the constitution.
Fast forward to today.
The issue of gay marriage for years has been considered a "States' Rights" issue. It is the reason that select states were ahead of the curve in legalizing the institution years ago, and its is why others steadfastly opposed it. Their justification? It was their right to pick and choose who to deny certain human rights to. Sound familiar? States utilized their right to discriminate on an entire demographic group, as they have since the constitution was written. However, gay rights is not the only entity threatened by the concept of "States' Rights" as an institution of discrimination.
When your child has text books that have your signature in them from over a decade ago and walk the same hallways that haven't been remodeled since your grandparents roamed them... "States' Rights". When roads go unpaved in certain neighborhoods, but are repaved and pristine in others... "States' Rights". Gentrification... "States' Rights".
And to the religious. I KNOW. I understand what has been embedded in our minds since we can remember sitting in the pews on a hot summer day. But in this instance, from a constitutional lens, it doesn't apply. "How", you ask. "Blaspheme", you yell. Consider this. you have every right to oppose this decision on the basis of your religion. However to request that the right for a couple to be married be denied and constitutionally sanctioned by the Supreme Court based on your faith is wrong.
Our constitution was designed to ensure that religion and the law can coexist without being interdependent. It is one of the greatest concepts included in the blueprint of our nation. The constitution can be the law of the land, and your religion can be the law of your life. Neither are mutually exclusive. We value that liberty. We even seek to impose that belief on nations other than our own. We wage war in the middle east to provide them with "freedom'. We criticize Sharia Law in Islam because, as a religious institution, it denies women the right to vote and drive. Yet here in America, our "Christian nation" seeks to deny a group of people a simple right that is afforded to every other American with no other justification than "religion"
I understand the trepidation. I do... really. It's hard for many of you to separate the two. But essentially that's what the Supreme Court just did. When it comes to the rights of American citizens, the highest court in the land ruled that discrimination, no matter the justification, no matter the method, to law abiding citizens is wrong. By no means am I equating the fight for marriage equality to the centuries-long oppression of Blacks in America. However, at its foundation, the essential arguments are the same. They have refused the bigoted interpretation of the 10th Amendment and upheld the 14th Amendment. I, for one, am glad they did.