Monday, May 11, 2015

The Gender Breakdown in Supreme Court Responses to Marriage Equality: An Exercise in Historical Fantasy

Think about it: if you're an historian 100 years from now, 200 years from now, looking back on global currents of thought and cultural-political change at this point in the history of world, what would stand out for you as worth noticing? What currents of change do we find ourselves in the midst of now, which are perhaps more difficult for us to see clearly, since we're right in the midst of them?

I've been mulling over this historian-looking-back fantasy for some days now, as I've thought about the U.S. Supreme Court hearing of the case of Obergefell v. Hodges (and here) at the end of April. Think about it: though the breakdown of how various Supremes are approaching the issue of same-sex marriage surely owes a great deal to ideological penchants and political loyalties, it also owes a tremendous amount to gender.

And that's worth noticing. The gender-breakdown of how the justices are dealing with the issue of marriage equality has to signify something.

When their colleagues Justices Roberts, Alito, and Scalia shamefully pulled out of their shopworn philosophical grab bags every tawdry argument in the right-wing book to try to shoot down the notion of same-sex marriage at the 28 April hearing, Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan shot these venerable male colleagues down in turn. They gave the right-wing men no quarter. They called their bluff.

Not to put too fine a point on what happened, the women exposed the right-wing men on the court as sheer buffoons with no really substantial arguments against marriage equality in their grab bag of tricks, buffoons whose impulse is simply to resist at all cost a cultural change they deplore — to resist with truculence and ill grace, as the corporate leaders to whom they have given rich latitude to set the course of the nation increasingly press the government to stop discriminating against same-sex couples. 

What happened at the historic Supreme Court hearing at the end of April is, to a great extent, a male-female story. It's a story about entrenched conservative men defending the interests of other entrenched conservative men (but caught in a bind as some of their most loyal supporters turn against them on this particular issue), while women insist that the time for playing discriminatory games is over and done with.

You boys have had your fun. Now it's time for all of us to move on.

All of this casts Justice Roberts, in particular, in a very bad light, as she shops around his tortured and rather silly argument that a necessary debate about homosexuality and the rights of LGBT people will be stifled if the Supremes knock down bans against same-sex civil marriage. It exposes this argument — an argument beloved of right-wing men and the centrist powerbrokers who carry water for them — as just what it is: a desperate last-ditch attempt to stop the cultural momentum for marriage equality by pretending that our culture is still involved in a meaningful "debate" about this issue, debate that should require . . . oh, years and years and more words and more words before we resolve this tortured "debate."

Though we're now well beyond the debate and the culture has simply chosen sides, with one side constantly dwindling and its bogus argument against the human rights of a minority group exposed as despicable, leaving the Supreme men on the wrong side of history about LGBT rights . . . .

So if you happened to be an historian looking back at this point in the history of the globe 100 years or 200 years from now (assuming — and this is a shaky assumption, isn't it? — that the good old boys running things don't cause the demise of the whole shebang), what might stand out for you as eminently worth noticing? In the Supreme Court hearings, I notice the courage and humanity of the women on the court.

I find those qualities singularly lacking in most of the court's men. 

I see courage in Marilyn Mosby's choice to charge the Baltimore police involved in the death of Freddie Gray with criminal offense. And I'm struck by the fact that the official making this difficult, but necessary, call is a woman and not a male.

Too many male officials in Mosby's bailiwick of justice-dealing and leadership-exercising have, for a long time now, preferred years and years more of words, of debate, about matters of race and gender and socioeconomic justice. They have done so because they happen not usually to be the people carrying the burden of those matters in precisely the same way that the women in their lives do — raising children, feeding, clothing, educating them, often on constricted incomes, and doing so without the large power and privilege that their husbands, brothers, or fathers enjoy legally, socially, in every other respect.

While the men running the religions of the world remain, most of them, obsessed with controlling vaginas, according to Mona Eltahawy — and I think she's absolutely right about this. Just as I continue to think that the resistance of many of the old boys who still  run things in much of the world to the rights of LGBT people is a facet of their even deeper and broader resistance to women's rights.

Because let women have power, and they'll act as Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor did at the Obergefell v. Hodges hearing. Or as Marilyn Mosby is acting in Baltimore right now.

And we can't have that. It shows us up, for God's sake!

Historians will not be kind to the Supreme men, most of them, sitting at present on the highest court in the U.S. They will celebrate, instead, the courage and clarity of moral vision of the court's female members.

I find the graphic at many blog sites, with no clear indication of its origins.

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