Friday, September 05, 2014

7th Circuit Invalidates Same-Sex Marriage Bans In Indiana and Wisconsin

Yesterday the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Baskin v. Bogan, (7th Cir., Sept. 4, 2014), affirmed district court decisions striking down same-sex marriage bans in Indiana and Wisconsin. The unanimous opinion, written by Judge Posner in his unquely cogent style, takes on and counters each argument in favor of same-sex marriage bans put forward by each state. He particularly emphasizes the protection-of-children argument on which Indiana relied exclusively:
The challenged laws discriminate against a minority defined by an immutable characteristic, and the only rationale that the states put forth with any conviction—that same-sex couples and their children don’t need marriage  because same-sex couples can’t produce children, intended or unintended—is so full of holes that it cannot be taken seriously. To the extent that children are better off in families in which the parents are married, they are better off whether they are raised by their biological parents or by adoptive parents. The discrimination against same-sex couples is irrational, and therefore unconstitutional even if the discrimination is not subjected to heightened scrutiny, which is why we can largely elide the more complex analysis found in more closely balanced equal-protection cases.
He derides Indiana's arguments, summarizing them as follows:
Heterosexuals get drunk and pregnant, producing unwanted children; their reward is to be allowed to marry. Homosexual couples do not produce unwanted children; their reward is to be denied the right to marry. Go figure.
Moving to Wisconsin's ban, Judge Posner, quoting (among others) Justice Holmes and John Stuart Mill, counters each of four additional justifications the state puts forward for banning same-sex marriage-- tradition, the need to move cautiously, respect for the democratic process and damage to traditional marriage. Posner describes the last of these as an argument that "allowing [homosexuals] to marry degrades the institution of marriage (as might happen if people were allowed to marry their pets or their sports cars)...."  He summarizes:
the grounds advanced by Indiana and Wisconsin for their discriminatory policies are not only conjectural; they are totally implausible.
As reported by the New York Times, yesterday's decision was handed donw only nine days after the court heard oral arguments in the case.