By saying absolutely nothing this week, the U.S. Supreme Court may have changed everything.
When it chose on Monday not to hear seven petitions challenging lower-court decisions that favored same-sex marriage, the court let those rulings stand, without comment.
In its silence, the high court spoke volumes, and sent ripples far and wide — including the Register of Deeds office in Greensboro, where Brad Newton and Frank Brooks filled out the forms for a marriage license Wednesday in anticipation of the legalization of gay marriage in North Carolina.
We didn’t see this one coming. It all happened in a blur. In another sense, it was overdue, and inevitable.
Yet two of the state’s top Republicans remain defiant. N.C. Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis, a candidate for U.S. Senate, said in a release that they “intend to formally intervene to defend North Carolina’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.” They added: “More than 60 percent of North Carolina voters cast a ballot to add the marriage amendment to the state constitution in May 2012.”
They have since hired a California attorney who advocates against gay marriage to make their case.
Berger and Tillis should give up this ghost and save the taxpayers’ money. The nation has changed since 2012, and it continues to change.
Of all people, Tillis should know that. In 2012, he said that the North Carolina amendment wouldn’t last because public attitudes are evolving on gay marriage. Within 20 years, he said, it would be repealed. “You can see shifting opinions on the issue.” At that time, Tillis also expressed some discomfort with government telling us whom we can and can’t marry. “We always have to be mindful we’re the party of limited government,” he said. And he was right
Only, Tillis may have been, oh, more than a decade off in his prediction. As of Monday, the number of states that allow gay marriage had swollen to 24, plus the District of Columbia. And since North Carolina falls under the jurisdiction of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which overturned Virginia’s gay marriage ban, it had been obvious that the ban here wouldn’t stand, either.
Seeing the handwriting on this wall, most national GOP leaders, with the notable exception of Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, have remained silent.
The high court apparently senses the same turning tide Tillis foresaw, even if it is reluctant to accept it. The court’s actions — or lack thereof — parallel a previous Supreme Court’s slow march toward a ruling in 1967 against laws banning interracial marriages. And they suggest similar logic: The 1967 decision didn’t compel anyone to marry someone of another race. It simply confirmed that right for those who do make that choice.
More significant is what the Constitution says. Gay marriage bans violate the 14th amendment’s guarantee of equal protection and due process under the law.
The fundamental issue is, and always has been, to preserve the rights of all Americans. For some taxpaying citizens to be entitled to the privileges, protections and benefits of marriage while others are not is patently wrong.
Morally, ethically and constitutionally, this is the right thing to do.