Augustana Observer

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Augustana Observer

Faculty: Court drives nation toward equality

The Supreme Court’s decision to decline hearing appeals court cases on Monday, effectively legalizing same-sex marriage in five states, shows a momentum towards equality, said religion professor Laura Hartman.
According to the New York Times, Indiana, Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia and Wisconsin now allow same-sex marriage. This brings the number of states allowing same-sex marriage from 19 to 24.
Hartman said that while she would prefer the states to vote for approval, the courts have always had to be the leaders when it comes to civil rights.
“People’s rights should not be up to the popular vote,” said Hartman.
David Dehnel, a political science professor, said that when the Supreme Court declined to hear the cases involving rulings from three of the 12 federal appeals courts overturning the five states’ marriage ban, the decisions appeals court stood.
According to the New York Times, the three appeals courts also have jurisdiction over Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming, and since the appeals courts will most likely abide by their precedents, 30 states may soon allow same-sex marriage.
Dehnel thinks the Supreme Court will eventually rule on the issue.
“In the current make-up in the Supreme Court, the deciding vote on the issue is probably Anthony Kennedy, and I don’t know how he will go on the issue,” said Dehnel. “Despite the fact that he’s a Republican appointed by Ronald Reagan, it wouldn’t shock me if he voted in favor of gay marriage, but we don’t know.”
Hartman said there are situations where being married can make a difference, such as in-laws having the right to children and inheritances instead of the deceased’s partner.
Another example is partners not being able to share their social security or inherit their partner’s social security.
“This could be the difference between poverty and well-being for these people,” said Hartman.
Hartman said she thinks people are moving towards a more positive view of same-sex marriage, but she also finds it ironic this is happening at a time where marriage is valued less.
“I share with people who are worried about same-sex marriage the concern about the meaning of marriage and that marriage doesn’t seem to mean that much any more,” said Hartman. “I would love to see a greater value on what marriage might mean and how it might have value.”
Hartman said the government has benefits for married partners, because historically society has thought of marriage as beneficial.
“So, I do think it’s important to ask ourselves, ‘Do we still think marriage is a healthy and good thing for society?,’” said Hartman. “I would argue that it is, but I think a lot of people don’t think so. I think that’s a decision people will have to make.”

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Faculty: Court drives nation toward equality