After last week’s oral arguments in the Seventh Circuit, yesterday’s unanimous opinion striking down Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriage was hardly unexpected. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t sweet.
Some of my favorite language from the opinion, written by (conservative) Judge Posner:
The state elaborates its argument from the wonders of tradition by asserting, again in its opening brief, that “thousands of years of collective experience has [sic] established traditional marriage, between one man and one woman, as optimal for the family, society, and civilization.” No evidence in support of the claim of optimality is offered, and there is no acknowledgment that a number of countries permit polygamy—Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Sudan, Morocco, and Algeria—and that it flourishes in many African countries that do not actually authorize it, as well as in parts of Utah. (Indeed it’s been said that “polygyny, where-by a man can have multiple wives, is the marriage form found in more places and at more times than any other.” Stephanie Coontz, Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage 10 (2006).) But suppose the assertion is correct. How does that bear on same-sex marriage? Does Wisconsin want to push homosexuals to marry persons of the opposite sex because opposite-sex marriage is “optimal”? Does it think that allowing same-sex marriage will cause heterosexuals to convert to homosexuality? Efforts to convert homosexuals to heterosexuality have been a bust; is the opposite conversion more feasible?
To return to where we started in this opinion, more than unsupported conjecture that same-sex marriage will harm heterosexual marriage or children or any other valid and important interest of a state is necessary to justify discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. As we have been at pains to explain, the grounds advanced by Indiana and Wisconsin for their discriminatory policies are not only conjectural; they are totally implausible.
This isn’t the end of the road, but Indiana is closer to joining the 21st Century–and closer to becoming a state able to attract people of good will, gay or straight.