Commentary: Slow step forward is best way to go

Today is a great day — a great, great day — for supporters of liberty and progressivism not only in California, but in the nation, and we should rejoice that societal progress has brought us to the point where even this Supreme Court has been forced to recognize the reality of not only gay marriage, but even more, of the gay and lesbian communities as full and unfettered participants in American democracy.

I know some may be disappointed that the justices dismissed the Proposition 8 case on "standing" grounds, and did not use it as an opportunity to make the expansive statement that marriage is a fundamental right which should be applicable to gay and straight alike, but, for a lot of reasons, I think they got it right.

First, although mostly a lawyer issue, the standing rules are important, and keep a lot of wrong people from being able to file appeals that could seriously erode important rights. Second, a few weeks ago there was an extremely provocative letter in the New York Times warning against a premature national legal decision, and arguing that much of the negative reaction to Roe v. Wade may have derived from the fact that it was too early — that the states were moving, albeit slowly, to liberalize the abortion rules, reflecting growing national sentiment, but that the shock of the federal imposition of the abortion-at-will rule was too much too soon.

That is a terribly difficult position for a liberal to view, as we stand there and see the most egregious, or even atrocious, denials of civil liberties and rights being applied to our fellow citizens. But there may be merit in the argument that the hastiness of the decision may have caused the violent "blowback" that we are still fighting today.

So too with the gay marriage rules. It is clear that the will of the people is changing across the nation, and state by state more and more jurisdictions are dropping the bar to same-sex marriage. However, it is true that there are still a large number of opponents ready to bring the same hysteria to the issues of gender orientation and marriage that was brought to bear on abortion and choice rights, something I am sure none of us want to happen.

However, despite the difficulty that having patience will bring, there is an enormous bright light on the horizon. If you read, or even just skim, Justice Kennedy's opinion in U.S. v. Windsor, the "Defense of Marriage Act [DOMA]" case, it is bursting with language recognizing the constitutional necessity of legalizing gay marriage, and with clear insight into the evils that its prohibition causes to gay people, to the children of same-sex marriages, to the law itself, the Fifth Amendment and the basic principles of due process and equal protection.

Clearly, we now have a majority on the Supreme Court that recognizes the evil of laws prohibiting gay marriage and is ready to overturn them just as soon as a case comes before them in the correct "posture," which is bound to happen this year or next as some gay couple in one such state raises a direct frontal attack on the law or state constitutional amendment that seeks to keep them apart.

I think, therefore, that this is one of those days, only too rare of late, when we can all stand and reflect on our nation with pride. I congratulate all of us, gay and straight, on this enormous stride forward in civil rights and liberties.

GENE GRATZ is a Laguna Beach resident.

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