While discourse about the DOMA decision made by the Supreme Court has been equally diverse and divisive, the conversations that fall within the latter category may provide us with keen insights regarding the polemical nature of the currently unfolding debates regarding the import and signification of gay marriage. Amongst a slew of other polemical questions that are raised in context of the subject, many people are discussing whether or not institutionalizing gay marriage will put the country’s long-standing relationship with economic injustice in the past. In light of the fact that rhetoric about America is rife with references to the primacy the country places on parity, discussing DOMA in context of the equality it may engender seems like an apposite endeavor to engage in.
To be clear, arguing that the DOMA decision raises questions pertaining to equality is a relatively broad statement that can wear as many hats as a human. For some people, juxtaposing the Supreme Court’s decision to overrule the edicts outlined in DOMA parallels the action taken by the same judicial body in the Brown vs. Board of Education case. There, the Court used its federal authority to overrule the state’s power in legalizing its segregated school system. The inequality factor in this case was unnervingly salient: the schools attended by the white children were qualitatively superior to those the black students were confined to. In negating the legality of the laws which made the lack of equality possible, the Supreme Court put a new and very frail form of parity in perpetuity. When one considers the historical signification and substance of the Brown vs. Board of Education decision, its similitude to the negation of DOMA becomes plain. Like its legal predecessor, the Supreme Court’s handling of the DOMA case overruled the state’s ability to uphold an unjust law that ensured the country’s citizens would not be treated equally.
In addition to calling attention to historical inequities that the country has grappled with, the DOMA decision may have caused many to reflect on whether the political representatives who opposed the measure are homophobic. To give the term homophobic specificity with respect to the word equality, one wonders if government officials who oppose gay marriage believe that heterosexuals are innately superior to homosexuals and therefore deserve economic benefits their gay counterparts should not have access to on account of their ostensibly perverse sexual practices. In expressing his own opposition to homosexuality, Republican conservative Rand Paul reportedly described Obama’s support for gay couples as evidence that he couldn’t “get any gay-er.” In a statement that seems to suggest he will not apologize for the implicit homophobia in the pejorative quip, Paul went on to state that he is “not going to change who I am or what I believe in. I am an old-fashioned traditionalist. I believe in the historical definition of marriage.” The sentiments of Pat Robertson seem to shed more light on the political and personal slant many Republican conservatives have adopted. In expressing his own views regarding homosexuals, Robertson stated that gay people are not gay at all. Rather, he says, “they are heterosexual and they just need to come out of that.” While this statement is a bit ambiguous and difficult to unpack, the words are likely offensive to many who interpret them as an implication that homosexuals are suffering from some sort of identity crisis that connotes a lack of the intellectual and emotional clarity necessary to develop a clear understanding of what human sexuality should constitute, entail. In essence, the comment could constitute condescension, infantilization. And-as such-Robertson’s supposition may amount to the verbal perpetuation of the legal inequality actualized by measures like DOMA.
Although political pundits are still speculating about what types of sociocultural and economic changes the Supreme Court’s DOMA decision will engender in coming years, it seems that heterosexist language may be here to stay. Much like the racist rants people of color are still subject to despite the desegregation of American schools that took place so many years ago.
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