I am still doing commentary on today’s history ruling in favor of same-sex marriage. It was a remarkable day for all of us outside of the Court. As many of us quickly read through the opinions, hundreds of people broke out into song: singing our national anthem. It never sounded so beautiful or so meaningful. As I went live with Jake Tapper on CNN, I noticed a familiar reference however. The Chief Justice cited to the Sister Wives litigation now pending before the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. I am lead counsel for the Brown family, which prevailed in striking down the criminalization of cohabitation in Utah. The Wall Street Journal and other media outlets also discussed our case.
First we should start with a quote from the majority opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy:
“Marriage is sacred to those who live by their religions and offers unique fulfillment to those who find meaning in the secular realm. Its dynamic allows two people to find a life that could not be found alone, for a marriage becomes greater than just the two persons. Rising from the most basic human needs, marriage is essential to our most profound hopes and aspirations.”
“In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
Here is the portion of Chief Roberts’ decision that cites to the Brown case:
One immediate question invited by the majority’s posi- tion is whether States may retain the definition of marriage as a union of two people. Cf. Brown v. Buhman, 947 F. Supp. 2d 1170 (Utah 2013), appeal pending, No. 14- 4117 (CA10). Although the majority randomly inserts the adjective “two” in various places, it offers no reason at all why the two-person element of the core definition of marriage may be preserved while the man-woman element may not. Indeed, from the standpoint of history and tradi- tion, a leap from opposite-sex marriage to same-sex marriage is much greater than one from a two-person union to plural unions, which have deep roots in some cultures around the world. If the majority is willing to take the big leap, it is hard to see how it can say no to the shorter one.
It is important to note that our case is about the criminalization of cohabitation and not the recognition of plural marriage. In that sense, Brown is closer to the ruling over ten years ago in Lawrence v. Texas. Nevertheless, there is language and analysis in the opinion that certainly amplifies our arguments on challenging the criminalization of these relationships. I expect that the case will be cited in our upcoming argument in Denver.
I have long support same-sex marriage and I was honored to be there at that historic moment. After I had finished with coverage in front of the Court, I was going to a car to go to the studio when I passed a choir singing our anthem (which was sung repeatedly today). It was as moving as the first time and beautifully sung by this choir. This was a truly transcendent moment for our country. I tried to point out on the air that those opposing this decision have some valid arguments about the Court’s role in our society and should not be dismissed as bigots or intolerant. While I disagree with the dissenters, there are valid concerns when the Court steps into an issue with such great political and social and religious divisions. Nevertheless, this was a moment when the Court truly rendered a transformative decision that I believe makes this country a better place.