Supreme Court: No Excuse for Discrimination
In his majority opinion invalidating the federal application of the Defense of Marriage Act, Justice Anthony Kennedy did more than strike a blow to a statute championed by religious conservatives. By detailing the cruel motives of lawmakers who couched their purpose in preserving the nation’s “Judeo-Christian” heritage, Kennedy’s opinion quite remarkably scolds members of Congress for using religiously based “morality” as a bludgeon to the rights of other citizens.
Obviously the Court in United States v. Windsor did not hold that Congress cannot legislate morality; it only held that this particular law violated the equal protection rights of certain citizens. But by finding that “the principal purpose” of DOMA was to “impose inequality,” the Court majority cast a dim view on efforts to legislate alleged “Judeo-Christian” morality, and to use that as an excuse for discrimination.
Indeed today’s opinion aims directly at the heart of the religious right’s operating principle that “biblical principles” must undergird all legislation. The corollary of that operating principle is that laws also must protect the “religious freedom” of those advancing “biblical” laws by depriving LGBT people of equal rights. Kennedy shot down, rhetorically at least, both those principles today.
In detailing DOMA’s legislative history, Kennedy wrote that the “interference with the equal dignity of same-sex marriages, a dignity conferred by the States in the exercise of their sovereign power, was more than an incidental effect of the federal statute. It was its essence.” In other words, Kennedy rejected the notion that DOMA supporters were defending or supporting anything but discrimination.