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History and humanity? Sure. But here's WHY it happened

Ruling 5 to 4, the US Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the Constitution requires that same-sex couples be allowed to marry — no matter where they live — and the 14 states that had refused to recognize it may no longer reserve the right to marriage only for its citizens who are heterosexual couples.

The media, and the activists — both supporters and opponents — are portraying the Court's decision as an historic victory for gay rights.

Of course. But it transcends that. And it didn't happen for the reason you think it did.

A sea of cheering, rainbow flag-waving people have filled the sidewalk in front of the Supreme Court. The crowd there keeps growing, and they have been celebrating the decision for the past two hours. It's extraordinary to see a crowd keep growing, on into the day, after a ruling. But it is understandable.

With few exceptions, America sees a day like this less frequently than once in a generation. And for the benefactors of today's ruling, they will never have the need to feel anguish over the denial of this basic right, ever again.

With few exceptions, America sees a day like this less frequently than once in a generation. And for the benefactors of today's ruling, they will never have the need to feel anguish over the denial of this basic right, ever again.

Perhaps it was a bit like this on September 22nd, 1862, the day Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

Perhaps August 18th, 1920, felt like this, the day the last state ratified the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women the vote, and ending any power by anybody to keep women disenfranchised.

It must have been like this on July 2nd, 1964, when President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act, the first legislation since Reconstruction designed to overcome legal barriers based on race, and it was specifically aimed at the state and local levels. Society's institutionalized exclusions and brutally impenetrable barriers had prevented African Americans from enjoying the same rights as white citizens. And that new act was tantamount to a revolution to protect rights everywhere, not just in former Confederate or former slave-holding states.

And there is that landmark day, June 12, 1967, when the Supreme Court announced its decision in Loving v. Virginia, and all prohibitions against interracial marriage were ended in a triumph for a couple appropriately named Mr. & Mrs. Loving.

The 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, ratified in 1868 and 1870, respectively, did not achieve their full intent until 1965, ninety-five years later, when the Voting Rights Act was signed into law following the Civil Rights Act a year earlier.

Women could not vote across America until 131 years after the Constitution was adopted.

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That's how big a deal today is.

All those dates, like today, made HUMAN rights supreme. Each of those occasions affirmed FREEDOM and knocked-down the ability of anyone to use the power of law to deny rights to other citizens, to use the law to oppress someone else.

And each time, the rights that were extended to "someone" got closer to becoming the rights that applied to everyone.

The Preamble to the Constitution speaks of making the United States "A more perfect union." President Obama referenced those words as he celebrated today's ruling by the Court.

There have been precious and few days in our history when long struggles at last make something happen that gives us what Lincoln so eloquently called "a new birth of freedom," that re-makes us, as the Founding Fathers envisioned, as a more perfect union. Today is one of those precious, rare, dreamt-of, hoped-for, prizes of the struggle. Today we ARE a more perfect union, with liberty and justice for ALL.

But that isn't why it happened.

What few will discuss is why the Court HAD to decide this way. It wasn't for any of those high-fallutin' dignity-and-respect, triumph-of-human-rights reasons that we will be the feel-good fuel of the celebration.

The Court decided — even by that razor-thin 5-4 margin — not because that was the ethically fair thing to do. It decided because marriage is not about religion, and not about a ceremony in a church. Despite the fierce opposition, the vitriol that has come chiefly from religious zealotry and fervor, marriage is not about religion. Marriage is a matter of contract law. Marriage is a contract between two willing adult citizens.

Had the court ruled the other way, imagine what that would have done to contract law in America.

"My credit card bank is not in my state. Since some contracts cannot be enforced across state lines — like my marriage in my state is not recognized in the state where my credit card is based — I shouldn't have to honor somebody else's contract from their state in my state. Like my contract to pay my credit card bill in their state."

The Supreme Court couldn't have THAT, now could they?

The underlying reasons are what they are. The outcome produces a victory for Civil Rights. It's a rare convergence of business needing THEIR contracts to be universally enforceable, so that means EVERYBODY'S contracts must be recognized, honored, and legally enforceable. Including the most fundamental contract two people can make — a marriage contract. For, ironically enough, a more perfect union.


Larry Wines