Taking off from the splendid setting of Rush Limbaugh's Elton John-entertained fourth wedding, Frank Rich deals today with the immensely important federal court case over whether the promise of equal rights has meaning for same sex couples. It challenges the California same-sex marriage ban.
Rich writes about how anti-gay forces endeavored to depress publicity about the case — good thing for them given the quality of their "expert" witnesses. He also notes how cultural forces — TV and changing public attitudes — help trump the mainstream news blackout. Stakes are high.
Gays are far from the only Americans still facing discrimination, but as [plaintiffs' lawyer David] Boies said when I interviewed him about the Prop 8 case last week, the ban on same-sex marriage “is the last area in which the state is taking an active role in enforcing discrimination.” And though some — including Elton John, of all people — have claimed that civil unions are tantamount to marriage and remedy marital inequality, that is a canard.
Domestic partnerships and equal economic benefits aren’t antidotes, Boies explains, because as long as gay Americans are denied the same right to marry as everyone else, they are branded as sub-citizens, less equal and less deserving than everyone else. That government-sanctioned stigma inevitably leaves them vulnerable to other slights and discrimination, both subtle and explicit. The damage is particularly acute for children, who must not only wonder why their parents are regarded as defective by the law but must also bear this scarlet letter of inferiority when among their peers.