A translation of the Supreme Court’s arguments against marriage equality

Antonin_Scalia,_SCOTUS_photo_portraitThe Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments on California’s Prop 8, the law banning same-sex marriage in California. Because legalese is hard to understand, I’ve translated some of the arguments made against marriage equality, and one of the arguments made for it, from yesterday’s hearing.

1. Justice Samuel Alito kvetched to the Solicitor General Donald Verrilli,  “Traditional marriage has been around for thousands of years. Same-sex marriage is very new…. But you want us to step in and render a decision based on an assessment of the effects of this institution which is newer than cell phones or the Internet? I mean we — we are not — we do not have the ability to see the future.”

Translation: Gay marriage is really new so we obviously can’t rule on it. Just like we can’t rule on cell phones or the internet. Whoops. Actually, we can. And do.

2. Attorney George Cooper defended Prop 8 by arguing that, “The concern is that redefining marriage as a genderless institution will sever its abiding connection to its historic traditional procreative purposes, and it will refocus the purpose of marriage and the definition of marriage away from the raising of children…”

Translation: Marriage is about having children. Which is why we don’t let people who can’t have children marry each other. Oh, wait, we do. People like Justice John Roberts and his wife who adopted their children.

3. When Justice Elena Kagan asked Cooper if, based on his marriage equals reproduction logic, the court should be able to ban marriage between couples older than 55, he responded no because “Even with respect to couples over the age of fifty-five, it’s very rare that both parties to the couple are infertile”; men, he said, “rarely outlive their fertility.”

Translation: it’s not OK to ban marriage between 55 year-olds because one of them, probably the man, could be fertile and could have a child with someone else outside the marriage slash WTF! slash could the court then specifically ban marriage between two people incapable of producing offspring? Unclear.

4. Justice (though it really pains me to call him that) Antonin Scalia claimed, “there’s considerable disagreement among sociologists as to what the consequences of raising a child in a single-sex family, whether that is harmful to the child or not…. That’s a possible deleterious effect, isn’t it?”

Translation: Having gay parents is bad for children. Unless you listen to all the evidence and credible sources that prove it’s not. Besides which, even if we say, for argument’s sake, that it is bad for kids, which it’s not, is having gay married parents worse than gay unmarried parents?

5. Justice Anthony Kennedy was a voice  of reason and compassion when he said to Cooper “There is an immediate legal injury or legal—what could be a legal injury… and that’s the voice of these children. There are some 40,000 children in California . . . that live with same-sex parents. They want their parents to have full recognition and full status. The voice of these children is important, don’t you think?”

Translation: Obviously, if you have any empathy and your judgement is unclouded by hatred and fear, it becomes clear that it is in the best interest of children not to be told that they are the products of freaks who don’t deserve equal rights. But I certainly don’t expect someone like Scalia, who once called gay sex “flagpole sitting,” to concede that.


Born and raised on the mean streets of New York City’s Upper West Side, Katie Halper is a comic, writer, blogger, satirist and filmmaker based in New York. Katie graduated from The Dalton School (where she teaches history) and Wesleyan University (where she learned that labels are for jars.) A director of Living Liberally and co-founder/performer in Laughing Liberally, Katie has performed at Town Hall, Symphony Space, The Culture Project, D.C. Comedy Festival, all five Netroots Nations, and The Nation Magazine Cruise, where she made Howard Dean laugh! and has appeared with Lizz Winstead, Markos Moulitsas, The Yes Men, Cynthia Nixon and Jim Hightower. Her writing and videos have appeared in The New York Times, Comedy Central, The Nation Magazine, Gawker, Nerve, Jezebel, the Huffington Post, Alternet and Katie has been featured in/on NY Magazine, LA Times, In These Times, Gawker,Jezebel, MSNBC, Air America, GritTV, the Alan Colmes Show, Sirius radio (which hung up on her once) and the National Review, which called Katie “cute and some what brainy.” Katie co-produced Tim Robbins’s film Embedded, (Venice Film Festival, Sundance Channel); Estela Bravo’s Free to Fly (Havana Film Festival, LA Latino Film Festival); was outreach director for The Take, Naomi Klein/Avi Lewis documentary about Argentine workers (Toronto & Venice Film Festivals, Film Forum); co-directed New Yorkers Remember the Spanish Civil War, a video for Museum of the City of NY exhibit, and wrote/directed viral satiric videos including Jews/ Women/ Gays for McCain.

Katie is a writer, comedian, filmmaker, and New Yorker.

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