2:00 PM CDT, March 26, 2013
The Supreme Court argument on the constitutionality of a California ban on same-sex marriage took place on the 10th anniversary of the arguments in another critical case involving treatment of gays. In the end, allegedly activist liberal justices defied an age-old social consensus, to the howls of conservatives. And yet a decade later, the ruling is so innocuous as to be almost forgotten.
The case was Lawrence v. Texas, in which two men caught in bed together by police were prosecuted under the state's sodomy law. By a 6-3 vote, the court struck down that ban, concluding, "The liberty protected by the Constitution allows homosexual persons the right to choose to enter upon relationships in the confines of their homes and their own private lives." With that decision, all remaining state laws against sodomy, homosexual or heterosexual, were nullified.
Conservatives weren't pleased. Rick Santorum warned the verdict could lead to legalization of all sorts of perversion -- "man on child, man on dog, whatever the case may be." The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said the decision "is to be deplored." President George W. Bush, who had defended the law, refused to comment. Former Bush speechwriter David Frum denounced it.
Yet today, the demise of sodomy laws is a matter of concern to almost no one. Public opinion, even among Republicans, does not favor government intrusions into sexual activity among consenting adults. Even the Texas GOP, which in 2008 denounced the "legalization of sodomy," dropped the subject from its 2012 platform.
If and when same-sex marriage gets constitutional protection, you can expect virulent denunciations from conservative politicians and clergy. But in time, people will wonder what all the excitement was about.
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