In his 2013 inaugural address, President Barack Obama declared gays and African-Americans comrades in arms, their parallel fight for equality “the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall.”
Yesterday, just after the Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling granting gays and lesbians the legal right to marry in all 50 states, Obama echoed that belief in a Rose Garden statement.
“When all Americans are treated as equal, we are all more free.”
Justice Clarence Thomas, however, begs to differ.
Thomas – the court’s lone African-American justice, and only the second black jurist to serve in its 226-year history – unleashed a scathing dissent in the Obergefell vs. Hodges same-sex marriage case, rejecting the notion that gays, like African-Americans, had suffered from second-class citizenship. Unlike slaves, he argued, lacking the right to marry didn’t prevent gays from traveling freely across state lines, or subject them to overt discrimination.
At the same time, the justice argued, the 5-4 court majority that made same-sex marriage the law of the land Thursday was misguided in its attempt to grant government the power to bestow “dignity” on gays and lesbians, something they should have already had.
“The government cannot bestow dignity,” he writes, “and it cannot take it away.”
The link between civil rights and gay rights is typically a sensitive subject, even among liberals. Like Thomas, however, conservatives critiquing the gay-rights ruling weren’t shy about comparing the struggle for gay rights with the civil rights movement, and not in a good way.
Two 2016 Republican presidential candidates, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, both compared the ruling to a pair of the Supreme Court’s historic segregation cases: the Dred Scott ruling, in which the court ruled that slaves didn’t have rights as U.S. citizens, and Plessy v. Ferguson, which affirmed the “separate but equal” doctrine of racial segregation.
“The Court is one of three co-equal branches of government, and just as they have in cases from Dred Scott to Plessy, the Court has an imperfect track record,” Santorum said in a statement.
Ditto, said Huckabee, who then stretched the analogy to the breaking point.
“What if the entire country had capitulated to judicial tyranny and we just said that because the Supreme Court said in 1857 said that a black person wasn’t fully human – suppose we had accepted that, suppose Abraham Lincoln, our president, had accepted that, would that have been the right course of action?” he said in an interview with Fox News, ahead of the ruling.
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SOURCE: U.S. News & World Report, Joseph P. Williams