Every civil rights victory seems to produce a new, imaginary class of victims.
You might have thought that today's landmark Supreme Court decision represented the end of discrimination against gays who want to marry. But according to one dissenting justice, the decision instead represents a threat to another group of citizens.
Who might they be? People who oppose gay marriage.
Incredibly, Justice Samuel Alito fretted that it won’t be safe to knock gay marriage anymore.
“I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes,” he writes, “but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools.”
(I wonder if he's been on a liberal college campus lately. I'm pretty sure this is already going on.)
Anyway, this is hardly an argument against gay marriage.
Instead, it's an apt description of how social pressure works: If you worry about being labeled a bigot for expressing the view that certain people should not be entitled to their civil rights, then perhaps you should keep your views to yourself. Or rethink your position.
Alito also worries that “By imposing its own views on the entire country, the majority facilitates the marginalization of the many Americans who have traditional ideas.”
But gays who want to marry have exceedingly traditional ideas; otherwise they wouldn’t have fought so hard for the right to participate in one of society’s most common and revered rituals.
As for “marginalization,” I think that has already occurred. Same-sex marriage was legal in 36 states and the District of Columbia before today's decision in Obergefell v Hodges. Way more than half -- 57% -- of Americans support same-sex marriage, according to the Pew Research Center, up from 37% in 2009.
Justice Scalia is getting a lot of attention today for his loopy dissent -- implying that California is not part of the Western United States, invoking hippies as experts on intimacy and insulting his colleagues as “pretentious,” “egotistic” and “incoherent.”
But Alito veers dangerously close to Scalia-style hysteria when he worries that legalizing same-sex marriage will unleash an urge for retribution among gays and lesbians, who will--what?--raise their tasteful pitchforks against the conservatives who have thwarted them for so long?
“Recalling the harsh treatment of gays and lesbians in the past, some may think that turn-about is fair play,” writes Alito. “But if that sentiment prevails, the Nation will experience bitter and lasting wounds.”
How can he fail to grasp that the nation has already experienced bitter and lasting wounds from the despicable way it has treated its gay citizens? The affronts, insults and murders over the last half century are far too numerous to recount.
Perhaps Alito is thinking of that little pizza parlor in Indiana whose owner had the misfortune to be quoted saying she would not cater a gay wedding because of her religious beliefs? A boycott forced the restaurant to close briefly, but it soon reopened after receiving a reported $800,000 from supporters.
Oh, the marginalization.