One of my favorite Supreme Court cases is Loving v. Virginia, and not just because it has a name that would delight any novelist. It's because it reminds me, when I'm downhearted, of the truth of the sentiment at the end of "Angels in America," Tony Kushner's brilliant play: "The world only spins forward."
Here are the facts of the case, and if they leave you breathless with disbelief and rage it only proves Kushner's point, and mine: Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving got married in Washington, D.C. They went home to Virginia, there to be rousted out of their bed one night by police and charged with a felony. The felony was that Mildred was black and Richard was white and they were therefore guilty of miscegenation, which is a $10 word for bigotry. Virginia, like a number of other states, considered cross-racial matrimony a crime at the time.
It turned out that it wasn't just the state that hated the idea of black people marrying white people. God was onboard, too, according to the trial judge, who wrote, "The fact that He separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix." But the Supreme Court, which eventually heard the case, passed over the Almighty for the Constitution, which luckily has an equal-protection clause. "Marriage is one of the basic civil rights of man," the unanimous opinion striking down the couple's conviction said, "fundamental to our very existence and survival."
Now, it should surprise no one that a supporter of gay marriage believes that its future legality is a matter of inevitability. What is remarkable and revealing about this piece is the manner in which Quindlan sees gay marriage one day becoming legal and what this means about her world view and that of many that support it.
Opponents will scream that the issue should be put to the people, as it was in Arizona, Florida and California. (Arkansas had a different sort of measure, forbidding unmarried couples from adopting or serving as foster parents. This will undoubtedly have the effect of leaving more kids without stable homes. For shame.) Of course if the issue in Loving had been put to the people, there is no doubt that many would have been delighted to make racial intermarriage a crime. That's why God invented courts.
Before I get to Quindlan's view, let's lay out some facts about how proponents of gay marriage view the world and the institution itself. Proponents of gay marriage see marriage as a fundamental civil right. By extension, this also means that they see the institution, in existence for about fiv thousand years, as almost entirely bigoted. That's the only logical place one can wind up. The institution has functioned for all of its existence without allowing gays entry. If it is a fundamental civil right to be married gay or otherwise, then the institution has been functioning all this time in a bigoted manner. That's why it has always been puzzling to me why gays want entry. An African American isn't demanding entry into the KKK. Why would gays demand entry into an institution that is fundamentally bigoted against them?
Now then, let's move onto Quindlan. According to Ms. Quindlan, gay marriage is an inevitability because eventually the courts will see the right way and make it legal. In Quindlan's view, courts have righted many wrongs that the electorate couldn't do on their own. Where the will of the majority was bigoted, unfair, or unwise, the courts were there to right such a wrong.
As such, in the view of Ms. Quindlan, if you are against gay marriage you are by extension bigoted, homophobic, stupid and wrong. Your vote must be overturned by the will of unelected courts because they are wise enough to see what your own bigoted perspective is blind to see. She sees the ruling in Loving as mandating gay marriage. Because a judge once, fifty years ago, said that marriage is a fundamental right, that makes all marriages, gay and otherwise, a fundamental. We should all never mind that the judges in that case never once thought their words would be used to justify gay marriage. Furthermore, in that case, an interracial married couple was thrown in jail for sleeping in the same bed. No such thing is happening to gay couples.
More than that though, Quindlan is perfectly comfortable making a single Supreme Court case the one and only power as long as that case fits her world view. The will of the people isn't on her side. She doesn't want to engage in the sort of debate that has moved the will of the people to her side in other cases of civil rights like the end of slavery, women's suffrage, and the civil rights movement. Rather than waiting for such trivialities, Quindlan would much rather leave the entire matter up to unelected judges that will be perfectly willing to subvert the will of the people.
Ironically enough, it is exactly this sort of tyrannical world view that builds the grass roots effort for the federal marriage amendment. The proponents of the federal marriage amendment fear exactly what Quindlan proposes. The more we have people like Anna Quindlan making cavalier proclamations that if the ballot box doesn't work the courts will, the more chance there will be that a grass roots effort will be raised to put into the Constitution that marriage is one man and one woman.