My Perspective on Why Marriage Equality is the Only Way that Makes Legal Sense

Needless to say, with me living in the South, there have been a lot of people angry over the marriage equality ruling. And with the South being full of people who aren’t exactly known for being the smartest, a lot of opinions have been going around on why the ruling is “unfair” because it doesn’t respect “state’s rights,” often citing the Tenth Amendment. I’m going to explain why it isn’t as simple as these people think it is, and why state’s rights could never apply to the level they think they do. It’s also worthy of mention that these people just last week were up in arms defending their “state’s rights” to put a Confederate flag over their state capitol. I don’t plan to discuss that today. I am simply going to say this. If you want to put the Redneck Nazi flag in your distended yard full of junk or on your beaten up old pickup truck, fine. But a state has zero right to waste my tax dollars on purchasing and maintaining that symbol of ignorance.

With all that flag nonsense out of the way (although I will refer to it once more before this post is up), time to get back to the matter at hand. I need to start out by establishing the parameters for this discussion. It is not about religion. People are intermingling a discussion on whether homosexuality is “right” or “wrong” into this, which more or less instantly invalidates their opinions. I’m not at all saying that people shouldn’t be allowed to have that discussion. I’m saying it has nothing to do with the discussion at hand: the legality of same-sex marriage. You can talk about the law of the land, or you can talk about religion. The two have nothing to do with each other though, so it’s inappropriate to talk about both in the same context. There is a difference, and for good reason. Case in point: Saudi Arabia, a country that acknowledges no difference between the two. With that being said, I will not respond to commentary, here or elsewhere, that tries to discuss religion.

TL;DR: Religion is outside the scope of this article.

That leaves the scope of this article to be the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage across the country. I am particularly going to discuss it against the “state’s rights” perspective. That is, most of the people in the South arguing against same-sex marriage argue that state’s rights have been violated, and states should be able to decide for themselves. I’m going to present both the short version and the long version of my thoughts on this.

The Short Version: Remember the Confederate flag debate? As most of the people arguing against same-sex marriage are the same ones thinking a state capitol should fly the Redneck Nazi flag (I do realize there are exceptions), I think that answer is safely a yes. Remember how that ended? State’s rights lost. The end.

The Long Version:

Quoted here is the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, the text being used to argue against a blanket ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

So. This means, if there isn’t anything else in the Constitution relevant to this, the Supreme Court ruling was wrong, right? Well, the whole point of the ruling is that the Fourteenth Amendment applies here, and I personally agree with that sentiment. But, for the sake of this argument, I’ll concede that hypothetically, it doesn’t apply here. Let’s continue.

There is in fact part of the Constitution that applies quite directly to this. Not even an amendment, but part of the Constitution proper. It is known as the Full Faith and Credit Clause, found in Article IV, Section 1, and quoted here in full for convenience.

Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state. And the Congress may by general laws prescribe the manner in which such acts, records, and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof.

What this means, in a nutshell, is that legal proceedings (including licenses) issued in one state must be acknowledged by any other state. To anyone with common sense, that would include a marriage license. So as long as a forward-thinking state is willing to issue a marriage license to same-sex couples (so here we’ll only consider the states that legalized it by popular vote, because once again, I’m writing this argument to the “let the people of each state decide” people). And yes, it was legalized in many states by popular vote. I know that, at the bare minimum, Maine, Maryland, and Washington did. According to the Constitution, the Fourteenth Amendment completely aside, a same-sex marriage license issued in one state is every bit as legal in any other state as your Louisiana driver’s license is legal in Texas (for those reading this from somewhere other than my hometown, for context, I live in a town in Louisiana so close to the border, a lot of people think it’s in Texas).

What I’m trying to get at here is that even if you don’t agree with the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Full Faith and Credit Clause quite clearly requires your backwards redneck state to acknowledge a marriage licensed in any other state. And once that is acknowledged, actually issuing a marriage in a given state is a mere formality.

Needless to say, with this knowledge in hand, I would imagine many people would desire to repeal the Full Faith and Credit Clause. To quote Alexander Pope:

A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring: there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again.

Let me explain why this would be a terrible idea to those people, unless you never leave the state you live in. The Full Faith and Credit Clause is also what makes your Louisiana driver’s license valid in Texas or any other state. In a world without it, you’d have to stop at every state line (kinda like at an international border). But then you’d have to find some way to get to the nearest DMV and obtain a license, in every state you wanted to get a license in.

TL;DR: Like being able to use your driver’s license in any state you drive into? If you want to keep that, nationwide same-sex marriage is here to stay.

I usually try to stay quiet about politics. But with my overal political ideology being of a largely libertarian bent, I manage to anger both the left and the right, so I think I might be a little more open about politics now. Yes, I’ll have a bunch of people that disagree with me, but I have the consolation that I’ll offend everyone equally. And I know that my intended audience will probably disagree with me on this (and I know it won’t change their minds, but I just wanted to point out the issues I take with their reasoning anyway), but I probably agree with you on a bunch of other things, so don’t sweat it.

One Response to “My Perspective on Why Marriage Equality is the Only Way that Makes Legal Sense”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *