For all the (deserved, I’d argue) blowback we’ve given President Obama over the years, on gay rights especially, one thing is incontrovertible. Had Barack Obama lost to John McCain in 2008, we’d have lost on DOMA at the Supreme Court yesterday.
The Supreme Court’s decision in US v. Windsor, striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, was 5-4, with Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor siding with the majority (i.e., us).
Had Obama lost to McCain in 2008, President Get Off My Lawn would have put Republican judges in to replace David Souter and John Paul Stevens. And I seriously doubt Justice Giuliani and Chief Justice Hatch would have been very friendly to Adam & Steve.
That’s not to say that Barack Obama walks on water. Anyone who’s a regular reader of this blog knows that we do not shy from taking on Democrats, especially the President, when we think they need taking on. But I also believe in giving credit where credit is due. And without those two appointments to the Supreme Court, we’d very likely be looking at two more decades of DOMA, at least.
And the credit goes beyond President Obama. You deserve credit too for voting for a Democrat in 2008 and 2012.
I know that President Obama has been a disappointment to a chunk of our readers. But yesterday’s DOMA decision (and Prop 8 as well) shows the importance of elections, and the importance of the courts. It’s tough getting people to focus on the courts. Especially as an election strategy. At least in my experience, working with a number of progressive groups in town over the years, using “who do you want to pick the next Supreme Court justice?” just isn’t a winning get-out-the-vote strategy. It should be. But it’s not.
Yesterday was another reminder that it should be. As was the Supreme Court’s disastrous decision gutting the key enforcement mechanism of the Voting Rights Act the day before. Elections matter. Courts matter. Republicans get that. Democrats are starting to.
So I appreciate the concerns about drones, about the Keystone Pipeline, and about the NSA. But none of that changes the fact that had John McCain won in 2008, gay people in this country would have been crying tears of sadness yesterday morning instead of tears of joy. Don’t get me wrong – that doesn’t make those other concerns invalid. But it does mean that it still was worth electing a Democrat over a Republican.
Having said that, we owe another president a bit of thanks too.
Guess who appointed Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, the judge who wrote the majority opinion in the Supreme Court’s three most important gay rights victories: Romer v. Evans; Lawrence v. Texas; and now US v. Windsor?
Yeah, that’s right ;-)