Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Should Same-Sex Couples Rush to Say Their Vows…Just In Case?

Same-sex marriage, which has been legal in all 50 states since the 2015 Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, was not one of the key issues raised by President-elect Donald J. Trump during the 2016 campaign. And when pressed on the matter on “60 Minutes” by Lesley Stahl the week after the election, Mr. Trump made it clear that trying to reverse the Supreme Court decision wasn’t high on his list of priorities.

“These cases have gone to the Supreme Court,” he told Ms. Stahl. “They’ve been settled. And I’m — I’m fine with that.”

One could forgive these couples for thinking Mr. Trump may be of two minds about gay marriage. They need only revisit the interview he gave last winter to Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday,” in which Mr. Trump said that he disagreed with the Obergefell ruling, adding, “If I’m elected, I would be very strong on putting certain judges on the bench that I think maybe could change things.”

Overturning the Obergefell SCOTUS ruling would be a tall order according to Dale Carpenter, a constitutional law professor at Southern Methodist University who is in a same-sex marriage himself and generally identifies as a Republican. Test cases, he said, could evolve from some of the religious-based challenges in Oregon, Colorado and Mississippi, and Texas legislators are flirting with bills that would require state officials to enforce the state’s Bill of Rights, which defines marriage as something that “only” occurs between a man and a woman. Nonetheless, Professor Carpenter said it was unlikely the Supreme Court would reopen debate or reverse itself in the next four years — even if the makeup of the court became increasingly conservative.

Laurence H. Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard Law School, called the Obergefell ruling, “a decision as close to being etched in stone as any Supreme Court decision in recent years.”

Still, those facts have not kept some gay and lesbian couples from feeling anxious about their future under a Trump administration — fears they are sharing on Twitter and Facebook, and on websites like Reddit, Curve and Vice. In a Vice article headlined “Why I’m Marrying My Partner Before Trump Can Take My Rights Away,” Zach Brooke, a freelance writer in Wisconsin, wrote: “The morning after Donald Trump was named president-elect, my partner and I calmly discussed how his presidency might affect us personally. We concluded that the possibility of future same-sex marriage restrictions is very real, and that if we wanted to get married, the time is now or never.”

Mr. Brooke added, “We don’t know how dark the future will be for LGBTQ individuals in the four years to come, but we do know it will be harder to dissolve existing marriages than to prevent new ones, and we’d rather not take our chances.”

What seems to trouble some of these gay and lesbian couples the most are not the specific positions taken by Mr. Trump, but those of his more conservative supporters.

As Cathy Ruse, a senior fellow for legal studies for the Family Research Council, wrote in a blog post for the conservative group published this summer: “We are not done with marriage yet.”

And many of the couples are troubled by the fact that the newly elected vice president, Mike Pence, as governor of Indiana, signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Opponents of the bill have argued that it could open the door to widespread discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.

Jim Obergefell, the widower whose name is on the 2015 Supreme Court decision affirming same-sex marriage because of the lawsuit he brought demanding Ohio authorities name him on his husband’s death certificate, said he doesn’t know what gay and lesbian couples can expect under a Trump administration.

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