When the U.S. Supreme Court recently struck down the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional, it also struck a lot of raw nerves. A national survey from the Pew Research Center revealed 45 percent of Americans approved of the decision, while 40 percent disapproved. That gap mirrored the 5-4 split at the nation's highest court.
Before delving into some of the reactions prompted by DOMA's undoing, let's look at the decision itself.
It did not, for instance, proclaim same-sex marriage rights the law of the land. It did say federal benefits would have to be paid to gay couples married in states that recognize such unions. To do otherwise would violate the Fifth Amendment's guarantee that "no person shall ... be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law."
Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion, basically reaffirmed states have the right to decide the matter. He said DOMA essentially overrode states attempting to treat heterosexual and homosexual marriages alike.
"The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and injure those whom the state, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity," Justice Kennedy wrote.
Many legal scholars and lawmakers alike can read the writing on the wall, however. This case likely will be used in attempts to overturn the various laws 38 states, including Kansas, have in effect to avoid giving equal treatment to gay and lesbian couples.
Those opposed to such treatment are outraged by the court's decision. Much like every other decision ultraconservatives don't agree with, the Supreme Court was deemed "activist."
But since this decision involved gay rights, the proclamations went much further.
A spokesman for the American Family Association claimed: "The DOMA ruling has now made the normalization of polygamy, pedophilia, incest and bestiality inevitable." The Westboro Baptist Church equated the decision with "USA's doom." And the Family Research Council is very upset florists throughout the country no longer will be allowed to discriminate by not decorating gay weddings.
Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., said the "Court had neither logic nor constitutional principles in mind" in making the ruling that will cause "harm to America's children and all of society."
As such, Huelskamp hopes to amend the U.S. Constitution to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. He cites all the research suggesting "children do best when they have a married mom and dad in the home."
Never mind the fact the Constitution doesn't specifically give the right to the federal government to decide matters of marriage. Huelskamp generally cites the 10th Amendment any time he is arguing the overreach of the feds, so he is aware of this. It will be tough to amend something that doesn't exist.
Perhaps a more useful item for the congressman to concentrate on, if he's truly interested in promoting kids in "traditional" settings and not simply espousing homophobic rhetoric, would be looking at actual trends.
Thirty-five percent of children are being raised in single-parent households. More than 3 million U.S. children witness domestic violence firsthand. Four percent of children are being raised by their grandparents. Barely half of Americans are married. Half of all marriages end in divorce or annulment.
On the other side of the coin, a mere 3.5 percent of Americans self-identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual. The real number likely is much higher, if this country actually offered equal treatment of all people. When people are harassed, bullied, beat up and even killed simply because they're attracted to the same sex -- or the perpetrator believes they are -- that will keep a lot of people closeted.
But here's a number Huelskamp and others should really pay close attention. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of same-sex couple households with children in this country is 115,064.
That is a ridiculously low number to change the U.S. Constitution for, even if the assumptions being made about such households were true. Equally ridiculous is the assumption two men or two women can't master parenting skills.
Rep. Huelskamp and others should reassess their seemingly prejudicial stances. Clinging to outdated notions of traditional families and the stability they possess simply reveals a lack of knowledge about reality. Most Americans understand this.
A much bigger threat to American children is having elected officials trying to "protect" them.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry