This past week, the Supreme Court spent time reviewing a challenge to California’s Proposition 8, which made same-sex marriage in California illegal, and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which denied same-sex couples the same federal benefits as their heterosexual counterparts. In a spoof article on Wednesday covering the justices’ deliberations, The Onion ran an incisive piece of critical analysis with the headline, “Supreme Court on Gay Marriage: ‘Sure, who cares’.”  

In response to Attorney Cooper, the attorney defending Proposition 8, who said, “gay marriage could harm the moral fabric of the country and hurt the institution of marriage,” The Onion reported that Associate Justice Sotomayor asked, “What are you even talking about?” while Justice Anthony Kennedy “muttered, ‘You got to be fucking kidding me,’ under his breath.”

Unfortunately, because it’s The Onion reporting, actual events didn’t unfold quite like that. 

Nevertheless, the article stands as a template to which Bowdoin students can aspire. As a society, can we cut the shit? Really though? Is it acceptable to even pretend to respect views like Cooper’s?
At what point is an opinion so stupid that it doesn’t even deserve our attention? At what point can we drop our liberal arts vocation to consider both sides of any issue and just say something is incredibly dumb? Better yet, can we just slap a “false” stamp on these arguments and move on?

I understand that there’s an overwhelming degree of legal complication surrounding these issues. I understand that the Constitution’s legal precedents should be followed because waving magic wands without deliberation to abolish laws rarely works out. 

I also understand, however, that deference to the complications of the legal system have provided cover for hatred and prejudice and can mask our discomfort with issues we don’t want to address. Do we know how much time we spent arguing what fraction to value human life at?

So I guess what I don’t understand is, if our country believes in equality, how can we not be outraged by opinions that exclude gay people from the mix? Creating separate laws for people based on their sexual orientation stems from the same philosophy of creating separate laws for people based on the color of their skin. Period. All of these concerns about keeping the church and state separate went out the window when the government decided to reward straight couples with legal and financial benefits for engaging in a religious custom. That’s government intervention in a religious matter.

When you strip away the legal arguments against same-sex marriage, the remaining argument for prohibiting same-sex marriage looks like this: “I think it’s wrong for two people of the same sex to love each other. I want the law to restrict their civil liberties to reflect my moral belief.”

As liberal arts students, we should see that argument for the fear of the “otherness” it represents. Or more bluntly, irrational hatred and homophobia. When people fear what they can’t relate to, they make laws to protect themselves. Before people were creating laws to stop same-sex couples from marrying, they were writing laws to stop black and white people from marrying one another. 

When we weren’t focused on regulating people’s love lives, we were really focused as a country on preventing those barbaric Irish people from immigrating to America. And don’t forget those times we were worried about all those sneaky Catholics and their papist conspiracies ruining our country. 

These blatant forms of prejudice and discrimination look really idiotic in retrospect. Thank goodness for that.

And while we’re here, have the people defending the institution of marriage and family values looked at our country lately? Are straight people doing a good job of protecting those principles? 
I’m sure I’m oversimplifying. But I don’t think by much. The world is really complicated. There are a lot of issues that deserve our attention and careful thought as Bowdoin students and as a society. This is not one of them. 

As The Onion so eloquently put it, “so, unless we are the most uncivilized society on the face of God’s green earth, I think we can all agree that a gay person is in fact a person. So what I’m saying is, who are we to tell a person who he or she can get married to? This is dumb. Can we talk about a real case now, please?” Hear, hear.