Diatribe: Judge Sutton, Time Is Of The Essence When It Comes To Equality.
Yesterday, oral arguments took place in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit where marriage equality cases from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee were heard by two judges appointed by President George W. Bush and one by President Bill Clinton. Each of these cases had been appealed to the Circuit Court when lower courts ruled in favor of marriage equality and, essentially against each state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
Throughout the three hours of back-and-forth questioning, Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton, one of the Bush appointees and a likely swing vote among the three, repeatedly asked why advocates of marriage equality wanted to use the courts to rush to an outcome that they were gradually winning through elections and referendums as voters’ attitudes changed.
“I’d have thought the best way to get respect and dignity is through the democratic process.” – Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton
As I listened to the arguments I was surprised that attorneys for the plaintiffs didn’t focus more on the fact that time is of the essence when it come to equality.
Every day children of same-sex parents are dropped off at schools by parents who are legal strangers. Both these children and these parents worry, every day, that a misinformed or judgmental school administrator might somehow attempt to keep that same parent from picking his or her child up from school at the end of the day.
Every day, loving and committed married couples live in fear that, should there be an accident requiring hospitalization, a healthcare worker might keep them apart as one takes their last breath. The laws of these four states, after all, define the partners as no more than friends and hardly next of kin.
Every day, couples with valid marriages from other states live with the confusion of something as simple as their legal name being in a constant state of limbo. Drivers Licenses that don’t match married names on credit cards, passports or children’s school records cause confusion at every turn. Different state identities and federal identities are a ridiculous burden to carry.
Time is of the essence, Judge Sutton, and it’s absurd to think that anyone should wait for attitudes to change before equality becomes the law. Did Americans wait for the democratic process to end slavery? To allow women to vote? Of course not. And the rights of civil marriage should be available to all couples.
State bans on same-sex marriages never should have been put to a public vote in the first place. Lower courts are finding them unconstitutional and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals should, too. Time is of the essence, Judge Sutton.
The idea that same-sex couples and their families simply “wait it out” is ludicrous. Judge Sutton’s swing vote against the plaintiffs in these four cases could actually be good news for equality as it will surely escalate the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court where a state’s right to define/deny marriage to same-sex couples will be settled once and for all.
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