Predicting the likely outcome of the landmark Supreme Court case
Friday’s decision by the US Supreme Court to legalize same-sex marriage is a milestone in the history of the sexual revolution. The Obama Administration celebrated the occasion with a rainbow light show projected onto the White House “to demonstrate [its] unwavering commitment to progress and equality”.
But revolutionary events don’t always turn out as the protagonists expect.
On January 23, 1793, the bloody head of His Most Christian Majesty Louis XVI was displayed to a cheering crowd. The revolutionaries of the new French republic had finally extinguished the ancien regime. As a modern historian writes, the king’s execution “had destroyed something forever. When the guillotine blade fell at 10:22 that morning a mystique was destroyed. Monarchy had been desecrated, desacralised.”
The revolutionaries foresaw a brilliant future for the French nation after it was freed from the yoke of royalty. “Unless the tyrant loses his head, there will be no liberty, no security, no peace, no rest, no happiness for the French, and no hope for other peoples of breaking their yokes,” said Jean-Paul Marat in his famous speech to the National Convention.
What was to come next? Who could tell? It was a revolution: there was no plan. That is the way of revolutions.
What came next for the French was the Reign of Terror under the Committee of Public Safety with tens of thousands guillotined; genocide in La Vendee, with a quarter of a million slaughtered by their fellow citizens; the execution of the members of the Committee of Public Safety; the death of the Republic; the birth of Napoleon’s Empire; five million dead in his wars; the extinction of Napoleon’s Empire; and finally, back to square one, a king once more, Louis XVII.
No one foresaw this disaster. No one intended it. But revolutions have their own momentum. Who can ever tell what will happen?
The US Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges is to the sexual revolution what the execution of Louis XVI was to the French Revolution. It has destroyed the mystique of marriage. No longer is marriage a pre-political reality which pre-dates the US Constitution, a sanctuary from government planners. This decision asserts that the government can define marriage in any way that it sees fit. As Chief Justice Roberts wrote in his scathing dissent:
“Just who do we think we are?”
Is there a secret conspiracy to use same-sex marriage as a wedge to legalize polyamory? Unlikely. But as Roberts notes, nothing is in place to stop it.
Already, supporters of polyamorous and polygamous relationships are constructing legal arguments. The latest issue of the Emory Law Journal is a symposium on polygamous unions, with several eminent academics supporting them. As one of them explains: