It was just over 11 years ago, and I distinctly recall sitting in my garage, tears rolling down my face, feeling completely and utterly crushed. George W. Bush had just been re-elected in arguably the most cynical, awful way possible. It turns out that ballot initiatives banning same-sex marriage in two-dozen states motivated social conservatives to vote in higher numbers, tipping the balance in favor of that horrendous chief executive and his even more horrendous vice president. In all my years of covering politics, election day 2004 was possibly the darkest day up to that point.
The Bush team had not only exploited the attacks of 9/11, turning unparalleled death and destruction into a meme repeated so often it nearly lost all meaning, but the Bushes also callously exploited anti-gay bigotry to win an election. Given the political rip-tides at the time, it appeared as if nothing -- no amount of activism or enlightenment or basic human compassion -- would turn things around perhaps in our lifetimes. But today, 11 short years later, former President Bush continues to be widely regarded as a bungling, disastrous president who led us to the brink of a global economic collapse, and the same-sex marriage bans he and his flying monkeys wedged onto our ballots have been washed away in a five-to-four decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the now-historic Obergefell v. Hodges case.
If Election Day 2004 was the darkest day I've observed in politics, then Friday, June 26, is among the absolute brightest, and historians of the future will look back and peg this among America's finest hours. Likewise, historians will inevitably record how off-the-rails the anti-gay conservatives have behaved throughout this period of time, and especially how they're sure to proceed from here. Look no further than the dissenting opinions in Friday's ruling as a preview.
Here's Chief Justice Roberts acting like a petulant snot:
If you are among the many Americans--of whatever sexual orientation--who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today's decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not Celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.
Corporate money as "free speech" is in the Constitution, according to Roberts, but equal protection in the 14th Amendment isn't? Yeah okay. Meanwhile, Justice Scalia, who I'm increasingly convinced is suffering from brain worms, was in rare form as well, writing:
Buried beneath the mummeries and straining-to-be-memorable passages of the opinion is a candid and startling assertion: No matter what it was the People ratified, the Fourteenth Amendment protects those rights that the Judiciary, in its 'reasoned judgment,' thinks the Fourteenth Amendment ought to protect.
Did I call Roberts' opinion snotty? Apologies. Scalia's colossally snotty remarks makes Roberts sound downright statesmanlike. Check this one out:
Really? Who ever thought that intimacy and spirituality [whatever that means] were freedoms? And if intimacy is, one would think Freedom of Intimacy is abridged rather than expanded by marriage. Ask the nearest hippie. Expression, sure enough, is a freedom, but anyone in a long-lasting marriage will attest that that happy state constricts, rather than expands, what one can prudently say.
I've seen YouTube comments that were more reasonable and gracious than that.
And more evidence of brain worms:
"Hubris is sometimes defined as o’erweening pride; and pride, we know, goeth before a fall."
The dissenting justices join the chorus of what's sure to be a continued effort to sidestep the decision and to make it really difficult to get married if you're gay. Let's start with the pledges from various GOP presidential hopefuls that the Court's decision on marriage equality would simply be ignored.
Mike Huckabee stepped up on Friday and predictably declared, "I will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch. We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat." Huckabee also repeated his usual gibberish about how the Court is making a law, when in fact the Court is simply doing what it's always done and reviewing existing laws and either upholding them or, in this case, striking them down as unconstitutional. But Huckabee's counting on his followers to be too ignorant to understand what the Court is capable of doing.
Jeb Bush, for his part, slithered out from under a rock and offered up the usual hackish boilerplate line that states should be allowed to decide the issue. He added, "It is now crucial that as a country we protect religious freedom and the right of conscience and also not discriminate." First of all, the states had a chance to decide when Jeb's brother turned it into a wedge as a means to getting elected. Imagine that -- a politically cynical campaign stunt getting overturned as unconstitutional just 11 years later. In hindsight, it seems so obvious. Another Bush 43 legacy item added to the compost heap. As for the religious freedom thing, this argument has obviously been the biggest anti-gay cudgel recently, and given the Court's ruling, it's sure to be brandished more heavily. The majority justices just thwacked the far-right hornet's nest and the incoherent "religious freedom" noise will be more deafening than ever, chiefly because it's all they've got now.
Among the things for which conservatives have a knack, their ability to hold back the tide of equality by changing the debate is unrivaled. They did it with Jim Crow laws. They're doing it now with Voter ID laws. And they continue to sidestep Roe v. Wade with all varieties of medieval, anti-choice de facto abortion bans, as well as restrictions against reproductive freedom, specifically access to affordable contraception. When it comes to all of these issue areas, the far-right will continue to exert its stupid-strength in the face of being not just on the wrong side of history, but completely divorced from the lessons of history.