SCOTUS decision is quite long and at the speed at which I went about it yesterday I’ll never finish. This is natural, however – as long as I can’t comprehend the ruling in its totality and how all parts relate to each other it’s okay for me to take it bit by bit.
The point of the whole exercise is to demonstrate how best minds work, how they argue their points, and, perhaps, see how they get confused by the illusion and make mistakes common to all humans. The result should be indifference to the value of intelligence, debates, and arguments. I wish I had it now but it’s not the case yet. Sometimes I think I’ve made some progress in this area but my interest in complexities of this particular case is a testament that more work needs to be done. Kṛṣṇa consciousness needs to be divorced from rationality, we must leart to see how there’s really nothing to argue about in the world and a truly intelligent course of action is to take up chanting.
This is a practical point and I remember it when I’m doing my rounds and various thoughts pop into my head. They all call for my attention and my mind and intelligence respond on the assumption that ideas have values. They don’t, only chanting the Holy Name does, but I can’t see it yet. Ideally, a proper, natural response to any suggestion of the mind should be “I see that and therefore I should chant very attentively and seek full shelter of the Holy Name”. This does not happen yet, I still explore other options, like “something must be done about it, but what? Let me think.”
So, let’s move on with the Supreme Court decision and hope it will free my mind from any doubts that chanting is the only appropriate response. Yesterday I got to the point where the court cited four main reasons why same-sex marriage should be recognized. First was that it’s an expression of individual’s autonomy, second was that right to marry is fundamental, third was “it’s for the children”, and the fourth was that “it’s for the good of the society”. All these reasons are problematic and I’ll get to it in time.
Next part of the decision deals with precedents of court interfering with the right to marriage or with people’s relationships, arguing that new insights and societal understandings can reveal unjustified inequality. This will be dealt with in detail in one of the dissenting opinions. For now I’ll just repeat that allowing interracial marriage did not change the fundamental definition of what marriage is while allowing SSM does.
Then the court ruled that gays have the same fundamental right to marry as straights and so it must be recognized by the states. Good argument, but it implies that gay relationships ARE marriage while according to traditional definition and understanding they are not. Men can be in gay relationships and marry women, the right to marry in a traditional sense is still there.
Who gets to decide what marriage is, however? Not the Supreme Court. Court’s job is to interpret the constitution and constitution says nothing about marriage, relegating all relationships between husband and wife to States. Of course if a definition of marriage were included in the constitution from the beginning it would have been so much easier. If people decided they didn’t like the definition and needed a new one they would go through legislature, not the courts. One of the dissenters said that this ruling robbed the people of the power to govern themselves and legislate through their representatives. Go democracy! Who needs representation when five wise men can make popular decisions?
Let’s pause here for a moment – is it right from Kṛṣṇa conscious POV to complain about people losing their democratic rights? Not at all, as long as judges, or whoever makes the final decision, does so according to God’s laws. So, in principle, it doesn’t matter who has the final word as long as the final word is kosher. In this case there are arguments in favor of regulating same sex couples and strengthening their responsibility. In case they adopt kids, children should be spared bullying and abuse dished out just because they happen to have two fathers or two mothers. There are negative effects, too, so our final position should depend on the substance, not the procedure. Though the argument can be made that respect for proper procedures is also necessary. Following procedures is dharma, and the decisions are results we shouldn’t be attached to.
Seen in this perspective, Americans failed to follow their proclaimed dharma of democracy and they will have to pay for that, and at the same time they will get the benefits from the decision along with the negatives and side effects. This is what makes life multi-faceted and complicated.
The court then addresses the issue of stripping people of the right to the further debate, litigation, referenda etc. It says that we don’t need to wait for the outcomes because people are being harmed already. Okay, but are they, really? People still live in their same sex relationships, no one has denied them that right. This is will come up in dissenting opinions, for now I’ll just say that interracial marriages were punishable by law, and same sex was once criminalized, too. None of that applies to SSM now, people are being harmed only in the sense they don’t get benefits, which is a subject for first world problems meme, like “house is too big, wifi doesn’t reach every room”.
Okay, that’s done with the ruling itself. Then we have five opinions of individual judges. One written on behalf of the majority and four written by dissenting judges.
The majority opinion states it very plainly right in the first paragraph – Constitution promises liberty to all and petitioners want the liberty to be recognized as married, so it must be granted. As simple as that. In fact, this captures the essence of the case – “they wants it, we gives it”, no arguments necessary.
There’s more there, of course, but I’d rather conclude today’s post with a warning that appeared on Sun. It actually comes from some Christian organization but was adapted for ISKCON – we must make sure that all marriage related activities on our premises are strictly religious, otherwise the government would demand us to follow secular rules and that means accommodating gays. I’m not familiar with specifics of how our halls used when rented out to karmī weddings but if the court ruling ends potential abuse of this practice it might actually be good for the spiritual health of our society.