Words of Equality

The fight for equality among LGBTQI peoples in the US has gained significant momentum in recent years, particularly in the last 12 months with respect to marriage equality. In the last two days we’ve come even further with federal district court rulings in Oregon and Pennsylvania declaring marriage laws in those states (defining marriage so as to exclude same-sex unions) as unconstitutional.

These are the thirteenth and fourteenth such wins in a row, I believe, making OR and PA the 18th and 19th states, respectively, to recognize same-sex marriage. So, not new or unique, thankfully. But I still find the decisions thrilling on many levels.

First, the weight of two more decisions, two more states, to the body of law and sanity can only be good news. The more states and nations that get on the right side of history, the easier it will be for oppressed and devalued peoples of every ilk everywhere to break free and gain their rightful equality.

Secondly, I’m excited to see love validated, regardless of the fears some harbor against what they perceive as different or other. Love is love is love…and it is legal in more places today to solemnize that love in marriage. Hallelujah!

But even in the midst of all these lofty social and ideological benefits, I am equally (heh) stoked, on a professional & word-geekery level. Reading the two latest court opinions stirs my internal word-nerd and excites the slumbering constitutional fan-butch inside me.

The prose these judges have used to convey their rulings and explain their rationale is so much more than dry legalese and incomprehensible chain citations. These judges have taken the time to illuminate their rationale and precedential commentary with words that convey the weighty burden they bear in the midst of a sea-change in American jurisprudence. Their voices in these written opinions clearly articulate the feeling and power of these judges’ convictions that they are delivering decisions on the right side of history and constitutional interpretation.

Here are the concluding sentences of each of the PA and OR opinions. If you read them aloud to yourself as I did, you can hear the ring of certainty in the truth and rightness and justice of these rulings in every word:

“In the sixty years since [Brown v. Board of Education] was decided, “separate” has thankfully faded into history, and only “equal” remains. Similarly, in future generations the label same-sex-marriage will be abandoned, to be replaced simply by marriage. We are better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.” John E. Jones III, U. S. District Court Judge, wrote in the conclusion of his opinion today declaring the Pennsylvania marriage laws unconstitutional.

This, after yesterday’s opinion by U. S. District Court Judge Michael McShane did the same thing to Oregon’s marriage laws. Judge McShane’s conclusion was perhaps a shade more lyrical and no less inspiring: “Where will this all lead? I know that many suggest we are going down a slippery slope that will have no moral boundaries. To those who truly harbor such fears, I can only say this: Let us look less to the sky to see what might fall; rather, let us look to each other…and rise.”

I’m so happy to be witnessing this evolution of civil rights in this country. It gives me hope that one day soon there will be no impediment to my marriage to my Special Femme, or to anyone’s marriage to their chosen love, regardless of their geographic residence.

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